Reducing Risk for Patients with Aortic Disease

Penn cardiovascular surgeons have the most experience in the region performing aortic disease procedures, and are regularly recognized as regional and national Top Doctors.

Wilson Szeto, MD, and Michael Acker, MD, performing cardiac surgery

The Penn Medicine Advantage

The Aortic Center at Penn Medicine is the largest program in the region. We are one of the top centers in the world with expertise repairing aneurysms at the aortic root without valve replacement.

When you choose the Aortic Center, you’ll find: 

  • Less invasive treatment options: As early pioneers of endovascular artery repair, we’re among the most accomplished centers in the world for treating aortic disease with less invasive approaches. We were the first in the region and fifth in the world to perform aortic arch replacement using endovascular techniques. 
  • History of innovation: Our program was founded in 1993, as was our robust research program. Because we pursue clinical and research excellence at the same time, we can offer treatments that aren’t available elsewhere in the region. Recent innovations include the use of fenestrated (branched) devices for endovascular treatment of aortic aneurysms. Our out-of-the-box thinking ensures we can treat patients with very complex disease.
  • Teamwork: In one visit, you’ll see multiple aortic disease specialists involved in your treatment. Your team may include cardiac surgeons, vascular surgeons, geneticists, dedicated nurse practitioners and imaging specialists. Your team works collaboratively to develop a personalized treatment plan. When needed, surgeons and endovascular specialists work together to perform aortic repairs in a hybrid operating room. Meet our team.
  • Diagnostic excellence: We offer state-of-the-art cardiovascular imaging, including cardiac echocardiography, CT and MRI scans. We use these advanced technologies to ensure we’re getting a complete view of a patient’s anatomy. This information improves diagnosis and treatment planning.  
  • Improved patient safety: Our dedicated aortic team is available 24/7 to respond to aortic emergencies. We developed specialized surgery techniques that protect patients against surgical complications such as stroke. And we provide lifelong monitoring in partnership with your primary care physician or cardiologist.

What Is Aortic Disease? 

The aorta is the body’s largest artery. The heart pumps oxygenated blood into the aorta, which delivers it to the rest of the body. The aorta is made up of three layers of tissue that may be damaged by diseases including:

When disease affects the aorta, life-threatening conditions may result, including: 

  • Aortic aneurysm: A weakening of the aorta can cause an abnormal bulge (aneurysm) in the wall of the aorta. As the bulge increases, you are at increased risk for a life-threatening rupture and bleeding. Our heart surgeons treat thoracic aortic aneurysms, which occur in the upper part of the aorta. Penn’s vascular surgeons treat aneurysms that occur in the lower part of the aorta (abdominal aortic aneurysm). Our cardiac surgeons and vascular surgeons work collaboratively to care for aneurysms that occur in the middle aorta (thoracoabdominal aneurysm). 
  • Aortic Dissection: When the aorta is weakened, the inner layer can tear. This tear, known as aortic dissection, causes the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate and requires immediate treatment. 
  • Penetrating atherosclerotic ulcer: Also called an aortic ulcer, this condition occurs when plaque forms in the aorta. The plaque damages the aorta, putting patients at risk for aortic aneurysm or dissection.

In This Section

Treatments and Procedures

Penn’s cardiac surgeons and vascular surgeons are internationally recognized for their care of complex aortic disease.

Treatment Team

Penn cardiovascular surgeons provide leading-edge therapies for complex aortic disease.

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