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Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

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The aorta is the largest artery of the body, its functions is to distribute oxygenated blood to the body.  Aortic aneurysm is the enlargement of any part of the aorta. There are three classifications of aortic aneurysm, depending on the location of the distended portion of the aorta. Cardiac Surgery Associates of Tampa most commonly treats thoracic aortic aneurysms found in the chest area and abdominal aortic aneurysms found in the abdomen. There are three different sub-classifications of thoracic aortic aneurysm depending on the location relative to the aorta, these are ascending aortic, aortic arch and descending thoracic aneurisms.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms are not as common as other types of aneurysm, but can be just as deadly. The rupture of an aortic aneurysm causes significant internal bleeding and often death within minutes if untreated. It is estimated that as few as 1 in 5 patients will survive a ruptured thoracic aortic aneurysm, as such early diagnosis and treatment is of utmost importance for those with aortic aneurysm.


Thoracic aortic aneurysm is often asymptomatic. Some aneurysms grow quickly and some develop slowly. As an aneurysm grows, possible symptoms may include:

  • Back pain
  • Chest tenderness or pain
  • Cough
  • Hoarseness

Causes and Risk Factors

The weakening of the aortic walls causes aortic aneurysms. There are a number of risk factors that can cause the aortic walls to weaken. As the walls of the aorta decline, the pressure from the flowing blood causes the vein to distend or “balloon” outward. This stretching of the vein wall further weakens the tissue and presents the opportunity for the aneurysm to burst.

Some risk factors for weakened arteries that could lead to thoracic aortic aneurysm can include:

  • Age, aneurysms are more prevalent in those aged 60 and better
  • Aortic valve disorders
  • Atherosclerosis, often predicated by high cholesterol
  • Genetic disorders, like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Hereditary predisposition 
  • Hypertension
  • Smoking
  • Syphilis
  • Traumatic injury to the chest

Treatment Options

The medical team at Cardiac Surgery Associates of Tampa can recommend the best course of action in the presence of a thoracic aortic aneurysm. Not all aneurysms will require treatment. Some grow so slowly and remain so small, that the likelihood of the aneurysm rupturing is minimal. Diagnostic testing is typically required to determine the size and severity of the aneurysm and repeated tests can measure growth rate. If monitoring is recommended, medication can help alleviate high blood pressure and high cholesterol to further slow the growth of the aneurysm. If surgery is required our cardiothoracic surgeons can go over all of your options, including endovascular aneurysm repair and open aneurysm repair. It is important to note that these treatment options assume the thoracic aortic aneurysm is identified prior to rupturing. Once an aneurysm has ruptured, emergency surgery is the only treatment option. If you believe you or a loved one has an aneurysm that has burst, please go to your nearest emergency room.

If you have questions about the treatment options Cardiac Surgery Associates of Tampa can provide for thoracic aortic aneurysms, please contact us online or by phone at 813.910.0027.