A thoracic aortic aneurysm can be life-threatening. If diagnosed in time, it can be repaired with surgery or less-invasive techniques.
An aneurysm is a bulge at a weakened spot in an artery wall. Aneurysms of arteries serving the heart and the brain are the most serious. If the weak spot ruptures, internal bleeding can be fatal unless emergency treatment is given.
The aorta is the largest and most critical blood vessel in the body. It funnels oxygen-enriched blood from the heart to the major arteries in the body.
An aneurysm can develop along the length of the aorta: in the chest (thorax), the abdomen, or a combination. Only 25 percent of aortic aneurysms occur in the chest.
Thoracic aortic aneurysms affect about 15,000 Americans each year.
Aneurysms pose an increased risk of:
Plaque (fat and calcium deposits), which narrows your arteries and can lead to a heart attack or stroke
A clot forming at the site and breaking away, causing a stroke
Growth of the aneurysm, leading to pressure on organs that causes pain
Tearing of the layers of the aorta (called aortic dissection), a potentially lethal complication
A sudden rupture that can be fatal without emergency surgery