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Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Repair

What is a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

It is when the artery wall of the aorta is weak, and the wall abnormally expands or bulges as the blood is pumped through it, causing an aortic aneurysm, this bulge or ballooning may be defined as a :

Fusiform : Is Uniform in shape, which appears equally along the extended section edges of the aorta.

Specular aneurysm : Is a lop-sided blister which is on one side of the aorta which forms in the weak area of the aorta wall.

Is a thoracic aortic aneurysm serious?

Yes it is a serious health risk because, the thoracic aortic aneurysm depending on the location and six is likely to rupture or dissect(treat)causing a life-threatening internal bleeding. A thoracic aortic aneurysm can often be repaired with surgery or even less invasive techniques.

If the aneurysms are smaller in size, still the patient is at a high risk for:

Formation of atherosclerotic plaque(fat and calcium deposits) forms at the site of the aneurysm

A clot(thrombus)which forms at the site and can dislodges,itself increasing the chance of a stoke, depending also on the size of the aneurysm which puts pressure on other organs,causing pain.

Aortic dissection, which means tearing of the layers of the aorta, which could result in an medical emergency and fatal complication.

If the aneurysm ruptures, as the artery wall is thin at this spot, and it is fragile and may burst under the stress, a sudden rupture of the aortic aneurysm may be life threatening and becomes a medical emergency.

What causes a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

They are often caused by atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, which damage the artery's walls,with age you can develop atherosclerosis, with this condition a sticky substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, and over a period of time the excess plaque causes the aorta to stiffen and weaken.

The risk for atherosclerosis increases if you are:

Smoke, have high blood pressure,high cholesterol and are overweight, also if you have a history of cardiovascular or peripheral vascular disease(narrowing of the blood vessels)

There are also certain diseases which can also weaken the layers of the aortic wall and increase the risk of thoracic aortic aneurysms which include:

Marfan syndrome (a genetic connective tissue disorder)

There are also other non-specific tissue disorders,that characterized by family history of aneurysms)

Presence of a bicuspid aortic valve,syphilis, or tuberculosis,very rarely a trauma which can be caused by a car accident that can cause a thoracic aortic aneurysm.

With age, also you are at risk of developing a thoracic aortic aneurysm,more men than women are diagnosed with thoracic aortic aneurysm and are often affected with the condition at a younger age.

It is noticed that most of these aneurysms, are considered to have a familial pattern, or it is inherited from the previous generation, through a past family history, therefore it is important to keep your physician informed if there is any indication of past family history.

What are the symptoms of a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Most of the time thoracic aortic aneurysms, often go unnoticed because patients rarely feel any symptoms, and the other half of those with thoracic aortic aneurysms do complain of symptoms, which include:

  • Pain which radiates in the jaw,neck and upper back
  • Chest pain, back pain
  • Coughing,hoarseness, or difficulty in breathing.

What is an aortic dissection?

When the layers of the aorta tear and separate from each other, and this increases the risk of an aortic dissection,it can also occur in people who have a normal sized aorta.

Aortic dissection can happen suddenly, and can cause severe pain in the chest or upper back,yet it is known like all types of aneurysms,there are no symptoms of aortic dissection.

Aortic dissection most commonly happens, with high blood pressure, and weakens the aorta and can lead to thoracic aortic aneurysm by causing the weakened areas of the aorta to bulge like a balloon, stretching the aorta.

Most commonly associated with high blood pressure, an aortic dissection forces the layers of the wall of the aorta apart through increased blood flow. If not treated early, aortic dissection weakens the aorta and can lead to a thoracic aortic aneurysm by causing the weakened area of the aorta to bulge like a balloon, stretching the aorta.

If you experience any symptoms of thoracic aortic aneurysms or aortic dissection , please keep you physician informed, if this is left untreated, these conditions can lead to a fatal rupture.

How is a thoracic aortic aneurysm diagnosed?

It is very difficult to analyse the diagnosis of an aortic aneurysm, as the larger the aneurysm, the chances are it can grow faster, and most likely to rupture. This risk of rupture can increase when the aneurysm is large and twice the normal diameter of an healthy aorta blood vessel.

Early diagnosis of a thoracic aneurysm is critical to managing the condition. The larger the thoracic aortic aneurysm, or the faster it grows, the more likely it is to rupture. The risk of rupture increases when the aneurysm is larger than about twice the normal diameter of a healthy aorta blood vessel.

It is hard to diagnose a thoracic aneurysm it is difficult because these symptoms often goes unnoticed until it ruptures . If it ruptures your physician may order you to do the following tests:

  • Chest x-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Echo-cardiography (an ultrasound of the heart)
  • Abdominal ultrasound (to look for associated abdominal aneurysms)
  • Angiography (an x-ray of the blood vessels)

Learn more about these diagnostic tests and procedures

How is a thoracic aortic aneurysm treated?

The treatment for a aneurysm depends on its size, location and overall health.

Medication

If the thoracic aortic aneurysm is small and are not causing any kind of symptoms, the physician would recommend "watchful waiting",by closely monitoring your condition with a CT or an MRI scan every 6-12 months, the aneurysm will be watched for signs and changes.

If you experience high blood pressure, the physician will prescribe blood pressure medication to lower the over all blood pressure and the pressure it causes on the weakened area of the aneurysm. In addition the physician may prescribe a "statin" or by lowering the medication to maintain the health of the blood vessels.