Cardiovascular Surgery
Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute

Symptoms of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Most aneurysms are “silent” — no symptoms are evident. When an aneurysm is discovered in the course of a test such as a chest X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound of the heart or abdomen, your physician will determine how much of a risk it poses and decide how to treat it.

Treatment for an unruptured aortic aneurysm may involve “watchful waiting” — that is, routine monitoring to see if it grows larger than five centimeters (about two inches). Medications and preventive measures, such as steps to reduce high blood pressure or high cholesterol, may be part of conservative treatment. 

Your cardiac surgeon will weigh a number of factors in determining if surgery to repair an unruptured aneurysm is the best course of action. 

While symptoms of an aortic aneurysm generally aren’t noticeable, a person may experience pain in the jaw, chest, and upper back, or have swallowing and breathing difficulties, due to the aneurysm’s effect on neighboring nerves and blood vessels.

Symptoms of a ruptured aortic aneurysm include pain, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and a rapid heart rate. Emergency surgery is critical to survival.

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