Thoracic aortic aneurysm

Overview

Type of disease: Genetic, autosomal dominant | Infectious disease | Acquired | Rare conditions

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a weakening of a portion of the upper aorta, the body’s largest artery (a type of blood vessel that delivers blood to the organs). The aorta is a long, thick vessel that extends from the lower torso to the upper chest. An aneurysm in the chest area is called a “thoracic aneurysm.” An aneurysm in the lower torso is called an “abdominal aneurysm.” The aorta can be weakened by a variety of factors, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (blood vessel hardening), older age, and a family history for aneurysm (genetic factors). An aneurysm forms when a weakened portion of the aorta losses stiffness, causing a portion of the aortic wall (the casing of aorta) to bulge outwards. If the aneurysm bursts, it can be lethal. But once identified, there are many ways aneurysms can be managed and treated to prevent bursting. Most aneurysms do not have any symptoms, so physicians will usually conduct investigative screens for those at risk for the condition via ultrasound, MRI or CT-scan. Treatment for an aortic aneurysm depends on the size and growth of the aneurysm and the health of the patient. For small, stable cases, the condition is usually managed with medication, healthy eating habits, and frequent observation. For large and/or growing cases, surgery may be required to repair the aneurysm site. A burst aortic aneurysm causes extreme pain and bleeding and causes death within minutes to hours if left untreated. Having an aneurysm increases the risk of blood clots and stroke (clots are more likely to form in the ballooned aortic wall). The risk of clots can be lowered with physical activity, avoiding long periods of inactivity, and certain medicines.

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