What is thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Thoracic aortic aneurysm: Overview

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel (aorta) in the chest. The bulge occurs in a weak spot in the vessel. A large aneurysm can be very dangerous. If it bursts, it can cause bleeding that leads to death.

A thoracic aortic aneurysm can be caused by an injury to the chest, hardening of the arteries, or an infection. Sometimes aneurysms run in families.

Small aneurysms may not need treatment. But you will need regular checkups to see how fast the aneurysm is growing. An aneurysm may be repaired with a procedure or a surgery if it is large, growing quickly, or causing symptoms.

What are the symptoms of a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Most people with thoracic aortic aneurysms don't have symptoms. But symptoms may occur if the aneurysm gets bigger. They may include chest or back pain, a cough, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing. Symptoms may come and go or be constant. If an aneurysm bursts, it causes sudden, severe pain and can quickly lead to death.

How is a thoracic aortic aneurysm treated?

The aneurysm may be repaired if there's a high risk that it will burst (rupture). Small aneurysms rarely rupture, so they aren't repaired. Regular testing is done to check their size and growth. Aneurysms that are large, cause symptoms, or grow quickly are more likely to rupture. Repair is usually recommended.

How is a thoracic aortic aneurysm diagnosed?

Thoracic aortic aneurysms are often found by chance during tests done for other reasons.

If your doctor thinks you might have a thoracic aneurysm, you will have a physical exam. You may also have imaging tests. Tests that may be done include:

  • Chest X-ray.
  • CT scan.
  • MRI.
  • Echocardiogram.

These tests can help your doctor find where the aneurysm is, how big it is, and how fast it's growing. The doctor can use this information to suggest the best way to treat the aneurysm.

How can you care for yourself when you have a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

A heart-healthy lifestyle may benefit your blood vessels. Eat heart-healthy foods. Limit alcohol, sugar, and sodium. Be active. Stay at a weight that's healthy for you. Try to get enough sleep. If you smoke, try to quit. Manage other conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Take your medicines as prescribed.

What is a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a bulge in a section of the aorta in the chest (thorax). The section with the aneurysm is overstretched and weak, so it can burst. If the aorta bursts, it can cause serious bleeding that can quickly lead to death.

What causes a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Some things can weaken the wall of the aorta and lead to a thoracic aneurysm. These things may include atherosclerosis, inflammation in the arteries, and inherited conditions such as Marfan syndrome.

Thoracic aortic aneurysm: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have any new chest pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have any problems making your doctor visits.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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