Sometimes, this hardworking artery gets damaged from injury or silently weakened over time from an underlying aortic disease (aortopathy). Any aortic disease can compromise blood flow and increase your risk of sudden death. That’s why it’s important to screen for aortic disease with experienced healthcare providers you can trust. You may be at risk but not have any symptoms until an emergency arises.
At Cleveland Clinic, we’re here for you. Our expert providers compassionately treat all types of aortic disease using the latest techniques — with excellent results. The newest and most precise testing lets us pinpoint what’s going on, so we can craft the most personalized treatment plan possible.
Why Choose Cleveland Clinic for Aortic Disease Care?
Cleveland Clinic is nationally ranked for its heart care and recognized as a world leader in cardiovascular care.
We specialize in aortic care and offer a full range of treatments for aortic diseases involving the aortic root and valve, the aortic arch and the entire downstream aorta. We do complex open and minimally invasive surgery to repair the entire aorta and the arteries arising from it. You’ll also have access to experts in diagnostic and genetic testing.
Working as a shared decision-making team, our providers make sure you’re at the center of your care — answering your questions and guiding you through each step of the treatment process. Meet our team.
Research and innovation:
Our cardiac and vascular providers continuously develop and research new treatments and therapies so we can provide the safest care with the best outcomes. Our clinical trials help us improve treatment by studying the latest tests, new drugs, techniques and surgical devices and tools, as well as other therapies before they’re widely available.
Not all appointments need to be in person. After sharing images with us from home, virtual visits let you meet one-on-one with your providers using an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or computer. You can talk about your progress and concerns with them from the comfort of home.
Diagnosing Aortic Disease at Cleveland Clinic
Your body depends on your aorta every second of the day. This main artery extends from your heart in the front of your chest, under your neck at the top of your chest and through the back of your chest all the way down to your belly button. It has the important job of carrying oxygen-filled blood from your heart to your brain and the rest of your body. When this artery becomes weak from disease or gets damaged from injury, it can’t carry blood as well as it’s supposed to and may be at risk of bursting.
Your aorta can grow wider (aneurysm), tear (dissection) or have narrowing or blockages (stenosis or occlusion). Any of these things can cause serious problems — often without any symptoms or warning. This damage can happen because of different kinds of aortic diseases, or other conditions that affect your aorta. Some of these conditions include:
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm.
- Aortic dissection.
- Bicuspid aortic valve disease.
- Connective tissue diseases.
- Marfan syndrome.
- High blood pressure (hypertension).
Some of these conditions are genetic (you’re born with them) or familial (inherited). Others are acquired, meaning you get them at some point later in your life. Exactly how aortic conditions affect you depends on what type of problem you have. Often, you may have no symptoms, so it’s important to get regular checkups with your primary care provider (PCP). If they discover you have an aortic condition, they’ll refer you to a cardiovascular specialist. That way, you can keep an eye on your heart and vascular health.
What to expect at your first visit
Think of your first visit as a chance for you and your provider to get to know each other. We want to learn about you, your experiences and how this condition has impacted your life. The first conversation gives us a window into your life and helps us learn as much about you as possible. We’ll ask questions like:
- How are you feeling?
- What symptoms (if any) have you had?
- How long have you had these symptoms?
- Do you have any other health conditions?
- Do any other family members have heart, aortic or vascular disease?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you exercise?
- What foods do you eat?
All this information helps us personalize your care as we diagnose and treat your condition.
You can also expect to have a physical exam during your appointment. Your provider will check all aspects of your health, keeping any risk factors you may have in mind. They might also order some tests.
Getting a closer look at what’s happening inside your body is an important part of the diagnosis process. These tests can help us see how healthy your aorta is. They also let us measure its diameter to see if it’s wider than it should be. A few common imaging tests include:
- Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE).
- CT scan (computed tomography scan).
- Abdominal ultrasound.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).
If you have a family history of aortic disease, your care team may recommend you see our genetic counseling team. These providers will talk with you about your family health history and may suggest genetic testing. We do this through bloodwork. The results can show if you have any genetic changes (mutations) related to aortic disease and help us decide if you or your family members need more testing.
Meet Our Aortic Disease Team
At Cleveland Clinic, we believe in working as a team to provide the very best care. That means you may see expert providers from multiple specialties. Some of your team members could include:
Providers Who Treat Aortic Disease
LocationsOur healthcare providers see patients at convenient locations throughout Northeast Ohio, Florida and London.
Treating Aortic Disease at Cleveland Clinic
Once we have results from your physical exam and testing, we’ll work with you to create a treatment plan focusing on you and your goals. Your treatment depends on what kind of aortic disease you have and if there’s any risk of complications. Some treatment options we might talk with you about could include:
One of the first things we might suggest is making lifestyle changes. These changes can slow down the progression of some aortic diseases. If you have an aortic aneurysm, they can also lower your chance that it ruptures.
Your provider may recommend that you avoid alcohol, smoking and using other tobacco products. They’ll ask that you eat a heart-healthy diet, follow an exercise plan and maintain a weight that’s healthy for you. They’ll also help you manage risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
If you have high blood pressure, you may take blood pressure medications to lower it. These medications reduce the amount of force your blood puts against your aorta’s walls as it moves through your body. Some blood pressure medications also limit how high your heart rate can go. This can lower the chance of your aorta rupturing or tearing.
Managing aortic disease
Keeping a close eye on your aortic disease is another part of your treatment. We’ll work with you to make sure you have the follow-up care you need — including yearly checkups and other appointments. You’ll also have regular imaging tests to check on your aorta’s health and see if your disease has progressed. This may continue even after an operation to repair or replace a part of your aorta that’s been repaired with stents or open surgery.
Sometimes, you might need a procedure or surgery to treat your aortic disease. These can include:
- Aneurysm surgery.
- Aortic root replacement surgery.
- Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR).
- Thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR).
Learning that you need surgery can bring with it a lot of different emotions. Our team of expert and caring providers will walk you through your surgical options and help answer any questions you might have. We’re by your side every step of the way.
Traveling for Heart Care at Cleveland Clinic
Traveling for care can add another level of stress to your life. Whether you’re coming to us from another city, state or even another country, we’re here to help make things as easy and convenient as possible for you. From knowing where to stay, eat or shop to getting to and from the airport, or just finding your way around any of our hospitals, we’re here to help you.
If you’re an international patient, our experienced and compassionate Global Patient Services (GPS) team is here to help you navigate Cleveland Clinic. They’ll help you find the right healthcare providers, make appointments, provide language translation services and coordinate important follow-up care back home after your visit.
Taking the Next Step
When you hear you have a heart condition like aortic disease, you probably have a lot of questions. What’s next? Will I be OK? How can I find the best care? Cleveland Clinic takes the guesswork out with a globally recognized team of heart and vascular specialists offering the expert, compassionate care you need and deserve. Working together, we’ll guide you through each part of the process — from the moment you reach out to us through follow-up care and beyond.
Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic’s aortic disease experts is easy. We’re here to help you get the care you need.
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