Aortitis is inflammation of your aorta. Causes include infection and rheumatologic conditions, such as Takayasu arteritis and giant cell arteritis. Treatments for this potentially life-threatening condition include medicines and surgery. It’s best when your healthcare provider diagnoses your aortitis early.
Aortitis refers to inflammation of your aorta. The aorta is the largest artery you have in your body and it has branches that provide blood flow to all of your body’s organs and tissues. As the aorta is a blood vessel, aortitis is one potential manifestation of vasculitis, or blood vessel inflammation.
Aortitis can occur in isolation or together with inflammation of other blood vessels (systemic vasculitis). There are many different types of systemic vasculitis. Healthcare providers identify these by the blood vessels the condition affects and other features.
Aortitis can widen your aorta, creating an aortic aneurysm, or possibly make your aorta narrow (aortic stenosis). These can be life-threatening because your aorta is your body’s biggest handler of oxygen-rich blood that goes to your body.
Several factors influence your symptoms, diagnosis and treatment:
Yes, in most instances healthcare providers consider vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation) to be an autoimmune disorder. This means your body is causing inflammation of its own tissues.
The underlying disease or cause that the aortitis is occurring in association with affects how frequently aortitis occurs. In general, aortitis is uncommon.
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Aortitis symptoms may be different from person to person, depending on if they occur in the setting of an underlying vasculitis or an associated inflammatory or infectious disease.
In some instances, people with aortitis may not have any symptoms.
Aortitis symptoms may include:
In addition to the symptoms they have, people with aortitis can have complications, including:
Aortitis can occur as part of an underlying systemic vasculitis or related to another inflammatory disease. In these settings, the actual cause of the underlying disease and the associated aortitis is unknown. Also, certain infections can cause aortitis.
Providers may find aortitis unexpectedly at the time of aortic surgery. When aortitis isn’t associated with another underlying disease or cause and it’s not affecting other blood vessels, this is called “isolated focal aortitis.”
To make an aortitis diagnosis, your healthcare provider will:
Imaging tests for aortitis may include:
Blood tests may include:
Aortic tissue examination:
If you’re having surgery for an aortic aneurysm, your surgeon may take a tissue sample during surgery to check for inflammation. Some people with no prior symptoms or signs of aortitis get an aortitis diagnosis at the time of their aortic aneurysm surgery.
The treatment of aortitis can include medication and/or surgery. Providers base their treatment decisions on:
You may not need treatment if you have isolated focal aortitis that a provider found and completely removed during aortic surgery and there’s no underlying disease. In such settings, ongoing monitoring remains extremely important to ensure there are no new features that develop that may warrant a different approach.
Your healthcare provider will use medications when they identify an underlying active systemic vasculitis, other inflammatory diseases or an infection. They may recommend:
Immunosuppressive medications reduce your body’s ability to fight an infection. Your healthcare provider will discuss the risks and benefits of each treatment as well as strategies to reduce these risks.
You may need surgery if you have:
In most instances, you can’t prevent aortitis because it’s related to a systemic vasculitis, an underlying inflammatory disease, an isolated inflammatory process or potentially an infection.
Reducing other risk factors for blood vessel injury is of even greater importance in people with aortitis and includes:
Aortitis can present in many ways and can require different management approaches. Because of this, you may need several healthcare providers to help you, such as:
Many factors will influence your experience with aortitis:
It’s important to go to all of your follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider, take your medicines as prescribed if these are needed and promptly report any new symptoms or concerns you have.
Your healthcare provider will discuss with you how often you should have office appointments or testing. You should contact your provider if you get new symptoms or if old symptoms come back.
The most serious complication of an aortic aneurysm is tearing or rupture. This is a serious problem because your aorta carries a large amount of blood to your body. You may have a rupture if you have:
If you’re taking immunosuppressive medications for aortitis or have an underlying systemic vasculitis or inflammatory disease, you may have other serious complications that require immediate medical care.
Your healthcare provider will discuss with you the symptoms and signs that require a trip to the ER, based on your specific diagnosis and management plan.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Because aortitis can be life-threatening, it’s important to receive ongoing care with healthcare professionals who are familiar with aortitis and its causes. You’ll need regular checkups to monitor your aorta. This includes visits with your healthcare providers, laboratory testing and imaging. Understanding the issues about aortitis that are specific to you and knowing the symptoms of serious complications can empower you in managing your aortitis and in knowing when and where to get help when you need it.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/03/2022.
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