What is thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Thoracic aortic aneurysm is characterized by the ballooning of the aorta, which is the biggest artery in the human body with the important function of carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to all other parts of the body. This ballooning can weaken the aorta and rupture it, and this condition can be fatal if emergency medical attention is not given.

What causes thoracic aortic aneurysm?

The condition can occur in individuals who have atherosclerosis, Marfan’s syndrome, connective tissue disorders, bicuspid aortic valve disease, and inflammatory diseases. Aging increases the risk of developing thoracic aortic aneurysm.

What is Marfan syndrome?

Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that manifests through defects in the heart valves and aorta. Marfan’s can lead to many health conditions if not managed properly, one of which is thoracic aortic aneurysm.

What are the symptoms of thoracic aortic aneurysm?

A dangerous trait of thoracic aortic aneurysm is that it often goes unnoticed unless you check for any other health condition that detects the inflamed aorta. You can look out for warning signs that include pain in the chest, back, neck, jaw, and upper back, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

How is the diagnosis made?

It is important to diagnose any weakness or inflammation of the aorta before it ruptures. If your symptoms warrant a closer look, physicians use the following methods to make a diagnosis:

  1. Chest X-rayMagnetic resource imaging or MRI
  2. Computed Tomography or CT scan
  3. Echocardiography
  4. Angiography
  5. Ultrasound

What should I do after I receive the diagnosis?

Your healthcare provider will give options to treat the condition based on how weak or inflamed the aorta is. You may need immediate medical attention if the aorta is close to rupturing.

What are the treatment options for thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Based on the condition of the aorta, doctors can treat thoracic aortic aneurysm with open heart surgery or other minimally invasive procedures. To repair the aorta, surgery can be used to replace the ruptured portion with a graft or by placing a stent to hold the artery open. If the condition is caused by other health conditions then treatment includes taking appropriate measures to manage the problem.

What is a stent?

For certain thoracic aortic aneurysms, a stent is placed in the weakened area of the aorta to hold it up. A stent is a mesh tube that allows the artery to carry on with its regular function without any hindrance.

Can I receive treatment without surgery?

If the condition is at its initial stages, then non-surgical options like medication can be used to treat the cause of the aneurysm. Your physician may recommend regular health checks on a bi-annual or annual basis to watch if the inflammation has reduced or progressed to a worse state. In case of sudden rupture of the aorta, surgery is the best way to save the person’s life.

What kind of medication is prescribed for thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Doctors usually prescribe blood pressure medication to bring down high blood pressure and maintain a normal level. Cholesterol lowering drugs may also be prescribed to reduce the buildup of plaque along the walls of the artery. High cholesterol and blood pressure can damage the aorta walls more than other diseases.

What complications will I face after surgery?

Surgery for thoracic aortic aneurysm comes with potential complications like stent infection, graft infection, heart attack, stroke, damage to the kidneys and other blood vessels, and sometimes death.

Can I lead a normal lifestyle after surgery?

Doctors may advise on reducing physical activity especially that involve intense cardio. Consult with a counselor for detailed information on lifestyle changes to make after undergoing surgery for thoracic aortic aneurysm.