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Aortic aneurysm

Heart and Vascular Care surgeons have substantial expertise in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of all types of aortic aneurysms.

The aorta is shaped like a cane. It extends up from the heart and branches off into blood vessels that supply blood to the head and arms. It then descends through the chest and abdomen, where it divides into the blood vessels that supply the abdominal organs and legs.

When the wall of the aorta becomes weakened, it may begin to bulge outward as blood is pumped through it. A slight enlargement of the aorta is called ecstasia. A larger bulge, more than 1.5 times the size of your normal aorta, is called an aneurysm.

Fusiform aneurysms appear as symmetrical bulges around the circumference of the aorta. They are the most common shape of aneurysm.

Saccular aneurysms are asymmetrical and appear on one side of the aorta. They are usually caused by trauma or a severe aortic ulcer.

Locations of aneurysms

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms (TAA) develop in the part of the aorta that runs through the chest. This includes the ascending aorta (the short stem of the cane); the aortic arch (the cane handle); and the descending thoracic aorta (the longer stem of the cane). It is usually an abnormal bulge in a weakened wall of the aorta in the chest area, and it can cause a variety of symptoms and often life-threatening complications. Due to the serious risks they present, timely diagnosis and treatment of a thoracic aneurysm are critical.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA) develop in the part of the aorta that runs through the abdomen. Most abdominal aortic aneurysms develop below the renal arteries (the area where the aorta branches out to the kidneys). Sometimes aortic aneurysms extend beyond the aorta into the iliac arteries (the blood vessels that go to the pelvis and legs).

Surgical treatment of aortic aneurysms

The standard surgical treatment for thoracic aortic aneurysms is open-chest aneurysm repair but some surgeons are now able to treat many thoracic and thoracoabdominal (occurring in the lower part of the thoracic aorta and the upper part of the abdominal aorta) aneurysms with a minimally invasive procedure called an endovascular stent graft.

Endovascular repair of thoracic aneurysms is generally less painful and has a lower risk of complications than traditional surgery because the incisions are smaller. Endovascular aorta aneurysm procedures also allow you to leave the hospital sooner and recover more quickly after your aorta repair.

Did you know

Greater than 75 percent of aortic aneurysms are abdominal aortic aneurysms. They are found most often in men between the ages of 40 and 70.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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