Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

A thoracic aortic aneurysm happens when a weak area in the upper part of the aorta expands or bulges. The aorta is the largest artery feeding blood to the body. A thoracic aortic aneurysm poses a serious health risk because if it bursts or ruptures forming a tear in the artery wall (dissection), it can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm: What You Need to Know 

Prevention

The best way to prevent an aortic aneurysm, or keep it from worsening, is to keep your blood vessels healthy by taking certain steps, such as:

  • Don't use tobacco products – Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program
  • Keep your blood pressure under control
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Follow a healthy eating plan low in cholesterol and fat

Teamwork

At Fletcher Allen, our highly skilled vascular and cardiovascular surgeons, interventional radiologists and cardiologists work together as a team, providing expert care for patients with a thoracic aortic aneurysm.

Technology

Our team uses the latest technology to treat thoracic aortic aneurysms. You will benefit from our advanced facility that includes a nationally accredited non-invasive diagnostic laboratory, where we perform sophisticated imaging tests such as an echocardiogram. Patients are often able to meet with a surgeon and have an imaging study on the same day. We also offer endovascular aneurysm repair, a minimally invasive procedure that reduces your recovery and risk of complications.

What is a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm?

Normally the aorta – the largest artery carrying blood to the body – is about 1 inch in diameter. With a thoracic aortic aneurysm, the pressure of blood flowing through the weakened area can cause it to stretch beyond its normal size.  An aneurysm can develop anywhere along the aorta, which runs from your heart through your abdomen.  When it happens in the upper part of the aorta, it’s called a thoracic aortic aneurysm.  More commonly, an aortic aneurysm forms in the lower part of your aorta and is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

The exact cause of a thoracic aortic aneurysm is unknown, but several factors can increase your risk of developing it, including: 

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco use: Fletcher Allen offers a tobacco cessation program
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis: hardening and narrowing of the arteries from a buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood)
  • Age: the risk increases as you age
  • Family history: parent, brother or sister with a thoracic aortic aneurysm
  • Connective tissue diseases, including:

Diagnosis and Treatment: Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

At Fletcher Allen, we use specialized vascular techniques to diagnose a thoracic aortic aneurysm. The aneurysm treatment that is right for you will depend upon its size, shape, and growth patterns.

Our physicians use advanced technology and are highly trained in performing surgical procedures for an aortic aneurysm.

Learn more about thoracic aortic aneurysm diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-0000.