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What Is Aortic Ulcer?

Sometimes called a penetrating aortic ulcer, this irregularity of the aortic wall is caused by the formation of plaque from atherosclerosis. The plaque wears down the inner lining of the aorta, which is the largest blood vessel in the body and branches off from the heart. As the plaque erodes the artery wall in the chest, it puts you at risk for a thoracic aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection.

Aortic Ulcer Symptoms

An aortic ulcer is difficult to describe because the symptoms — chest and back pain — are common with many other conditions. Your doctor may suspect an aortic ulcer if you have:

Diagnosing an Aortic Ulcer

If you visit your doctor complaining of chest or back pain that is unusual or difficult to describe, they may recommend you undergo cardiovascular imaging tests such as:

  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Aortic Ulcer Treatment at Penn

The team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and vascular surgeons at the Aortic Center lead and advance the field of aortic disease management. Your doctor’s goal is to prevent an aortic ulcer from developing into an aortic aneurysm or dissection. To accomplish this, he or she will likely use:

  • Active surveillance: Sometimes called “watchful waiting,” this is regular monitoring of the ulcer using the same imaging tests used for diagnosis.
  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe medicines to control coronary artery disease.

Your doctor may determine you need surgery to prevent the ulcer from worsening. Surgical options may include:

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