Overview of Aortic Aneurysm
When the wall of an artery becomes thin and weak, it can stretch and bulge like a balloon. This weakened area is called an aneurysm. When it happens in the aorta, it's called an aortic aneurysm. Since the aorta is the main artery out of your heart, an aortic aneurysm is a dangerous condition. If it grows large enough or weak enough, the artery wall can tear (dissection) or rupture, leading to life-threatening bleeding.
Aortic aneurysms are associated with and may be caused by the following conditions:
Aortic aneurysms are classified by location in the body. Thoracic (chest) aneurysms can be ascending (just above the heart) or descending (in the back of the chest, near the spine). Abdominal aneurysms are located in the belly, below the diaphragm. Aneurysms that extend from the chest into the abdomen are termed thoracoabdominal aneurysms.
Diagnostic Tests for Aortic Aneurysm
Abdominal aneurysms can be detected by physical examination, ultrasound, or CT scanning. Thoracic aneurysms are more difficult to detect, and require CT scanning or MRI for accurate diagnosis.
Treatments for Aortic Aneurysm
Treatment of aortic aneurysm requires control of blood pressure and regular imaging to monitor for continued enlargement. When an aneurysm approaches 5 cm in diameter, surgery to repair the aneurysm is generally recommended. Patients with connective tissue disorders or a family history of aneurysm rupture or dissection should consider early surgery. Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you.
Services and Programs
Service and programs at Intermountain Heart Institute that help patients with aortic aneurysm