Thoracic aortic aneurysm

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 21st Jul 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>General Health>Diseases & Infections

One of the scariest conditions to think about is having a brain aneurysm. Many people automatically think death when they think aneurysm, but how many people actually know what an aneurysm is?

Thoracic aortic aneurysm

The Montreal Neurological Institute is a world renown research center and hospital specializing in the diseases of the brain.

The aorta is a the major blood vessel in the human body and a thoracic aortic aneurysm is a weakening or bulging in the upper part of the aorta. An aneurism in the major blood vessel can cause massive bleeding and can be life-threatening. We have already covered an abdominal aortic aneurysm which is a weakening or bulging in the lower part of the aorta. This article will try to tease out the differences between the two without repeating the same information. The scariest part of all is sometimes there are no symptoms to alert the victims of this terrible disorder.

Note: Readers can refer to the series on abdominal aortic aneurysms for more information.

Surgery for a ruptured thoracic aneurysm is risky therefore, doctors try to avoid surgery as much as possible. Fortunately, small slow growing aneurysms do not require surgery. Doctors are more inclined to worry about the bigger ones rupturing.


Often time there are no symptoms, however some patients do report pain or tenderness in the back or chest area.


Marfan syndrome

Marfan syndrome is a connective tissue disorder which already creates a weakness in the aortic wall that puts Marfan syndrome sufferers at risk for a thoracic aortic aneurysm. People who suffer from Marfan syndrome often have eye problems, very long limbs, are tall in stature, and have a deformed breast bone.

Connective tissue disorders

Connective tissue disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can render an individual at risk for a thoracic aortic aneurysm. With Ehlers-Danlos syndrome the skin stretches very easily because joints, connective tissue and skin, are very fragile.

Heart valve problems

Heart valve problems such a bicuspid aortic valve (defect in the aortic valve resulting in two instead of three leaflets) can put an individual at risk for a thoracic aortic aneurysm.

Previous injury to the aorta

If you have had any previous injury to your aorta, it can also put you at risk for a thoracic aortic aneurysm.

General injuries

Some people who have been injured in a motor cycle accidents or dangerous falls develop a thoracic aortic aneurysm.

The risk factors associated with a thoracic aortic aneurysm

The risk factors associated with a thoracic aortic aneurysm include:

Tobacco use
The longer and more you smoke, the more at risk you become for developing this type of aneurysm.
High blood pressure
Hypertension damages the blood vessels and therefore puts you at risk
Plaque build-up in the arteries
Age – this condition usually affects people who are 60 years of age and older.
Men are more prone to developing a thoracic aortic aneurysm, but they are more likely to rupture women get them.
Caucasians are more at risk than other races.

Family history

People who have family histories of aneurysms are at a double risk for developing an aneurysm at a younger age and having rupturing aneurysms as well.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm: Diagnosis, Open Heart Surgery and Medication

Many of us worry about aneurysms as we associate them with heart disease and stroke. Often time however, they take us by surprise because there are no symptoms and once the aneurysm ruptures it can be fatal.

Complications stemming from a thoracic aortic aneurysm include:

Ruptures which could result in life-threatening internal bleeding
Intense sudden and continual pain in the chest, back or abdomen
Sweating, dizziness and clamminess
Fast pulse
Low blood pressure
Shortness of breathless
Difficulty in speaking
Blood clots that can break away, preventing the flow of blood to the legs, toes, abdominal organs or brain.
Paralysis to one side of the body
Loss of consciousness

Go to the ER immediately should you experience any one of these symptoms.

When your doctor suspects you have a thoracic aortic aneurysm he or she will send you for some tests to confirm the suspicion.

Screening and diagnoses for a thoracic aortic aneurysm :

Chest X-ray


The echocardiogram functions by sound waves to monitor the rhythm of the heart. It will monitor the functioning of the heart valves and heart chamber. Sometimes a transesophageal echocardiogram is used. This device is a tube that goes down the esophagus to see the images of the sound waves within the body.

Other types of screening and medical procedures

CT Scan

This scan measure radiation in the body and changes it is to electrical signals.

(Magnetic resonance angiography)

MRA also produces signals converted to images the doctor can see to monitor the different types of tissues.

Routine screening and genetic testing may be done for individuals who have a family history of aneurysms.

Monitoring is the first choice of treatment, this is done when the aneurysm is small and there is no threat of rupture.

Medication will be prescribed if you have high blood pressure.

Beta blockers

Beta Blockers lower your blood pressure

Angiotensin II receptor blockers

Angiotensin II receptor blockers are prescribed for people with Marfan Syndrome or for people who need a stronger medication than beta blockers.


These medications are prescribed for lowering blood pressure.

You will be advised to cease chewing tobacco or smoking if you have either of these habits.

Surgery is recommended for large aneurysm and for people with any size aneurysms if they have Marfan Syndrome or another connective tissue disease. Your doctor may recommend surgery if you have a history of aneurysms running in the family.

Types of surgery

Open heart surgery

The damaged part of the aortic is removed and replaced with a graft. This surgery will take several months for recovery.

Endovascular surgery

Endovascular surgery is not as evasive as open heart surgery. This surgery requires that a tube covered in a metal mesh wire be inserted in the leg then run up to the site of the aneurism where it is fastened or hooked into place. This procedure weakens the aneurysm and prevents rupture.

Other surgeries may be required if there are other problems such as heart valve issues.

Unfortunately many people who have a ruptured aneurysm never make it to the hospital in time.

A healthy lifestyle is the best prevention against an aneurysm. It requires keeping your heart vessels healthy. You can do that by watching your dieting, getting in enough exercise, keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol down and ceasing to smoke or chew tobacco.

All photos taken from the public domain

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