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.

The aorta, highlighted in blue below, is the main artery out of your heart.


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:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis or clogged arteries)
  • Bicuspid Aortic Valve
  • Connective Tissue Disorder and Blood Vessel Complications (including Marfan syndrome)
  • Family history of aneurysm

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 called thoracoabdominal aneurysms.

The image below shows an aortic aneurysm that is thoracic (in the chest) and ascending (just above the heart).


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