The aorta is the largest artery in the body and is the blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to all parts of the body.
The section of the aorta that runs through the chest is called the thoracic aorta and, as the aorta moves down through the abdomen it is called the abdominal aorta.
What is an aortic aneurysm?
An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal enlargement or bulging of the wall of the aorta. An aneurysm can occur anywhere in the vascular tree. The bulge or ballooning may be defined as a:
- Fusiform: Uniform in shape, appearing equally along an extended section and edges of the aorta.
- Saccular aneurysm: Small, lop-sided blister on one side of the aorta that forms in a weakened area of the aorta wall.
An aneurysm can develop anywhere along the aorta:
- Aneurysms that occur in the section of the aorta that runs through the abdomen (abdominal aorta) are called abdominal aortic aneurysms.
- Aortic aneurysms that occur in the chest area are called thoracic aortic aneurysms and can involve the aortic root, ascending aorta, aortic arch or descending aorta.
- Aneurysms that involve the aorta as it flows thru both the abdomen and chest are called thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms and thoracic aneurysm are not the only type of aneurysm. Aneurysms can develop in other blood vessels:
- Popliteal: an aneurysm in the artery behind the knee
- Renal: an aneurysm in the kidney; a very rare condition
- Visceral: an aneurysm in an internal organ and/or intestines
What are the symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm?
Symptoms of a thoracic aortic aneurysm (affecting upper part of aorta in chest):
- Pain in the jaw, neck, upper back or chest
- Coughing, hoarseness or difficulty breathing
Symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (affecting lower part of aorta in abdomen):
- Pulsating enlargement or tender mass felt by a physician when performing a physical examination
- Pain in the back, abdomen, or groin not relieved with position change or pain medication
Early diagnosis of an aneurysm is critical to managing the condition and reducing the risk of rupture. If you have these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Find a doctor who treats aortic aneurysm
Doctors vary in quality due to differences in training and experience; hospitals differ in the number of services available. The more complex your medical problem, the greater these differences in quality become and the more they matter.
Clearly, the doctor and hospital that you choose for complex, specialized medical care will have a direct impact on how well you do. To help you make this choice, read more about our Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute outcomes.
The Aorta Center includes a multidisciplinary group of specialists in cardiology, cardiac surgery, vascular medicine, vascular surgery, cardiothoracic anesthesia, cardiovascular imaging, genetics, ophthalmology and orthopedic surgery. These clinicians are experts in genetic and diagnostic testing, medical management and surgical and endovascular procedures. They are dedicated to providing care to patients with all types of aortic disease
Learn more about experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of aorta disease
You may also use our MyConsult second opinion consultation using the Internet.
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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace
the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider.
Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
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