Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center

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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.

This image shows the aorta, the largest artery in the body that carries blood from the heart to your brain and major organs.
This image shows an aortic aneurysm that is thoracic (in the chest) and ascending (just above the heart).

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.

  • Peripheral Vascular Study

    A Peripheral Vascular Study (PVS) is an ultrasound exam that screens for problems in the vessels of the abdomen, neck, legs and arms.

  • Cardiac CT

    Cardiac CT is a test that creates a 3D image by combining x-rays of thin cross-sections of your heart (and vessels).

  • Cardiac MRI

    Cardiac MRI is a test that uses powerful magnets to create pictures of the heart and coronary arteries.

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.

  • Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Repair

    Thoracic aortic aneurysm repair is an open-chest surgery that repairs a portion of the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to your brain and vital organs.

  • Thoracic Endovascular Aortic Repair (TEVAR)

    TEVAR is a less invasive surgery that uses a stent to repair a portion of the aorta, the main blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to your vital organs.

Services and Programs

Service and programs at Intermountain Heart Institute that help patients with aortic aneurysm

  • Center for Aortic Disease

    The Center for Aortic Disease focuses on the care of patients with aortic aneurysm and dissection using the most advanced surgeries and less invasive repairs.

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