What Is Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm?

Your aorta is the main artery in your body, a superhighway that supplies blood to your entire body. It originates in the left ventricle of your heart and extends all the way down into your abdomen. When the walls of the part of your aorta that stretches through your chest become damaged or weakened, they balloon outwards, causing an aneurysm.

While a ruptured aneurysm is extremely dangerous, most thoracic aortic aneurysms are discovered before they reach that point.

What are the Symptoms of a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm?

Aneurysms develop slowly over the course of several years, and since most people don't experience symptoms, you may be unaware that you have a thoracic aortic aneurysm. However, if the aneurysm expands rapidly, tears open or leaks blood, you may have one or all of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the jaw, neck or back that isn't relieved by switching positions or pain medication. The pain may be sudden, severe and constant.
  • Chest or back pain.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Coughing.
  • Hoarseness.

Diagnosis of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

An early diagnosis is ideal for a thoracic aortic aneurysm so it can be treated and managed before it ruptures or expands. If you or your physician suspects you have a thoracic aortic aneurysm, you may need the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart).
  • Chest x-ray.
  • CT scan.
  • MRI.
  • Angiography (x-ray of your blood vessels).

Treatment at Penn

If your aneurysm is large and is causing symptoms, you will need surgical repair. When you choose Penn Medicine, you will work with a highly specialized team of cardiologists and surgeons who helped pioneer treatments for thoracic aortic aneurysms and continue to lead and advance the field.

Penn vascular surgeons practice at the highest level, treating some of the most complex cases of aortic repair. Penn is currently the largest referral center for complex aortic work in the region.

Penn Programs & Services for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Complex Aortic Disease

Experts in detecting, treating and managing complex aortic disorders

Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy

Providing the most advanced surgical and endovascular care for vascular disease

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