An aortic aneurysm is a weakened area in the upper part of the aorta. The aorta is the major blood vessel that feeds blood to the body.
Aortic Aneurysm can lead to a tear in the artery wall that can cause life-threatening bleeding. Small and slow-growing aortic aneurysms may not ever rupture, but large, fast-growing aneurysms may rupture. Depending on the cause, size and growth rate of your thoracic aortic aneurysm, treatment may vary from watchful waiting to emergency surgery.
Aortic aneurysms can develop anywhere along the aorta, which runs from your heart through your chest and abdomen. Aneurysms that form in the lower part of your aorta — called abdominal aortic aneurysms — are more common than thoracic aortic aneurysms.
Aortic aneurysms are often found during routine medical tests, such as a chest X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound of the heart or abdomen, sometimes ordered for a different reason.
If your doctor suspects that you have an aortic aneurysm, specialized tests can confirm it.
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The goal of treatment is to prevent your aneurysm from growing, and intervening before it dissects or ruptures. Generally, your treatment options are medication, monitoring or intervention, which usually involves surgery. Your doctor's decision depends on the size of the aortic aneurysm and how fast it's growing.
There are three main options:
It's likely your doctor will order regular imaging tests to check on the size of your aneurysm. Expect to have an echocardiogram, CT scan or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) at least six months after your aneurysm is diagnosed, and at regular follow-up exams.
If you have high blood pressure or blockages in your arteries, it's likely that your doctor will prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure and reduce your cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of complications from your aneurysm. These medications could include:
If you have a thoracic aortic aneurysm, surgery is generally recommended if your aneurysm is about 1.9 to 2.4 inches (about 5 to 6 centimeters) and larger. If you have Marfan syndrome, another connective tissue disease, a bicuspid aortic valve or a family history of aortic dissection, your doctor may recommend surgery for smaller aneurysms because you have a higher risk of having an aortic dissection.
If you have a family history of aortic aneurysm, Marfan syndrome or other connective tissue disease, or bicuspid aortic valve, your doctor may recommend regular ultrasound or radiology testing such as computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams to screen for aortic aneurysm.