Thoracic aortic aneurysm: Overview, Causes

Definition

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a widening (bulging) of part of the wall of the aorta, the body’s largest artery.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Thoracic aneurysms most often occur in the descending thoracic aorta. Others may appear in the ascending aorta or the aortic arch.

The most common cause of a thoracic aortic aneurysm is hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Other risk factors include:

  • Connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome
  • Having high blood pressure for a long time
  • Previous dissection of the aorta
  • Syphilis
  • Trauma such as falls or motor vehicle accidents

Pictures & Images

Heart, section through the middle

The interior of the heart is composed of valves, chambers, and associated vessels.

Aortic rupture, chest x-ray

Aortic rupture, chest x-ray

Aortic rupture (a tear in the aorta, which is the major artery coming from the heart) can be seen on a chest x-ray. In this case, it was caused by a traumatic perforation of the thoracic aorta. This is how the x-ray appears when the chest is full of blood (right-sided hemothorax) seen here as cloudiness on the left side of the picture.


Review Date : 5/6/2009
Reviewed By : Robert A. Cowles, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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