Ascending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

An ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm is bulging and weakness in the wall of the ascending thoracic aorta, which extends up from the top of the heart's left ventricle. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, located in the chest, which delivers blood from the heart to the rest of the body. An ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm can burst and cause life-threatening, uncontrolled bleeding.

Are You at Risk?

Atherosclerosis plays a key role in the development of an ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm.

Other risk factors include:

  • Cystic medial degeneration (tissue breakdown in the aortic wall)
  • Genetic disorders (such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Turner's syndrome and polycystic kidney disease) that affect connective tissue such as the bones, cartilage and blood vessels
  • Family history of thoracic aortic aneurysms

Diagnosing an Ascending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Common symptoms include severe or dull pain in the abdomen, chest, lower back or groin and sharp, sudden pain in the back or abdomen. Our specialists can diagnose you with a series of tests, including:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Angiography
  • Echocardiography

Treatment for an Ascending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

You and your healthcare provider will choose a treatment method that suits your needs. Options include:

  • Close monitoring: You may undergo regular screenings to check the size and growth of the aneurysm to determine if treatment is necessary.
  • Lifestyle changes: Steps such as quitting smoking, controlling diabetes and eating a low-fat diet to reduce cholesterol levels may help keep the aneurysm from growing.
  • Medication: You may need medication to help reduce high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Surgery: Surgeons may repair the aneurysm with a stent-graft, which they insert into the aorta through an artery in the leg. In some cases, open surgery (requiring a larger incision in the chest) may be necessary to repair the aneurysm by replacing it with an artificial blood vessel.

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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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