Aortic Diseases

Aortic disease is one of the most common forms of cardiovascular disease. The aorta is the largest artery, and it carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. The first part of the aorta starts just past the heart and the aortic valve and extends all the way down to the diaphragm. This portion is called the thoracic aorta. The part of the aorta below the diaphragm is called the abdominal aorta. There are a variety of conditions that can affect the strength and cause it to enlarge (aneurysm), tear (dissection), or even rupture. Blood flow can also be decreased through the aorta in the presence of blockages and can affect blood flow to various organs and your arms and legs. These events can be life-threatening. 

What is aortic disease?

Aortic disease is caused when there is damage to the linings of the aorta that can either cause blockages to form or the wall of the aorta to stretch or tear. Some examples of health conditions that can weaken or affect blood flow in the aorta include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries).
  • Cystic medial degeneration.
  • Connective tissue disorders (e.g., Marfan, Ehlers-Danlos, or Loeys-Dietz syndromes).
  • Genetic conditions (e.g., congenital bicuspid aortic valve, autoimmune diseases, polycystic kidney disease).

Aortic aneurysms

An aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area or bulge in the aorta, typically caused by weakening of the wall of the aorta. In some cases of thoracic aortic aneurysms, the aortic valve can be affected and may need to be repaired or replaced. Oftentimes, aneurysms don’t enlarge enough to require surgery, but need to be monitored carefully to ensure they don’t grow too fast or lead to life-threatening ruptures or tearing.

Aortic dissection

An aortic dissection refers to a tear in the inner layer of the aorta. This is a serious, sometimes emergent condition that causes blood to enter between the layers of the aorta. It can decrease the blood flow to your body and carries risk of rupture.

Aortic disease symptoms

You should see your doctor right away if you feel:

  • Sudden severe chest pain or abdominal pain that radiates to your back.
  • A sudden “tearing” pain that starts in the middle of your back.
  • Faint, or if you lose consciousness.

Aortic disease care at AHN: Why choose us?

Our team of physicians are experts at caring for patients with aortic diseases and other conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. At the Cardiovascular Institute, you can expect:

Advanced and cutting-edge treatments for complex cases

We utilize a wide array of treatment options for patients with various aortic diseases. In some cases, we’re able to perform advanced, minimally invasive surgery to correct various conditions. This can include placing stents (EVAR, TEVAR), using smaller incisions, or utilizing cutting-edge devices to replace the aorta. All of these advances help improve recovery time and are less invasive than the sometimes-necessary, standard surgical approaches. Most importantly, they improve survival, particularly for those for which larger surgery is too risky.

A comprehensive program

We offer the experience and knowledge needed to treat all types of aortic conditions. From straightforward conditions using just medical therapies to the most complex conditions that may require surgery, our program provides comprehensive treatment.

A multidisciplinary team approach

At the AHN Aortic Disease Program, our goal is to provide the best and most thorough care to our patients. We achieve this by evaluating each patient carefully through a multidisciplinary team. Thoracic and vascular surgeons, cardiologists, radiologists, and geneticists who are experts in their fields, as well as nurses, advanced practice providers, and program coordinators, work together to help make your experience the best it can be. Our team will develop a personalized management and treatment plan for your condition, explain it to you in detail, and provide you with information to share with your family. We are also available 24/7 for any questions you may have.

Our aortic specialists

At the AHN Aortic Disease Program, every specialist — including cardiac and vascular surgeons, aortic pathologists, cardiologists, and radiologists — has been specifically trained to treat the various aortic diseases that exist. Each one is involved in research endeavors to help the field progress.

What your first appointment will look like

When scheduling an appointment, our nurses will discuss any additional testing that may be needed. If imaging is still needed on the day of your appointment, your doctor may refer you to radiology or echocardiology upon your arrival to obtain images of the heart and aortic valve for proper assessment. You’ll then head to our clinic, where you’ll meet with our advanced practice provider who will obtain a thorough medical history, including family history. Once this is complete, you’ll meet your team of specialists. Depending on your diagnosis and history, you may see one or more of the specialists, including a thoracic surgeon, vascular surgeon, and cardiologist. We will review the images with you as well as provide details about your aortic condition. Following this, we will discuss our recommendations for management and treatment, and also discuss the plan for follow-up.

After meeting with us, if your condition is more complex and/or you’ll require a procedure, the entire team will meet in the following week to discuss your case and ensure that everyone weighs in on the treatment plan.

In the end, our mission at the AHN Aortic Disease Program is to:

  1. Provide a complete evaluation and treatment plan, using a team of specialists and the most advanced technology and therapies available.
  2. Ensure you have an experience, from beginning to end, that meets every one of your expectations.
  3. Provide you with the necessary information about your condition, as well as any pertinent screenings for your family members.
  4. Continue to provide the most advanced treatment options, using ongoing research and continued educational experiences for the team.

Contact us


If you have not been formally diagnosed yet, call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 to schedule an appointment with a general cardiologist to be evaluated.

Seeking a second opinion

If you’re already diagnosed with an aortic disease and you are seeking a second opinion, call 1-855-828-TAVR 1-855-828-8287 to schedule a consultation with our Aortic Disease Program.

Connect with the Aortic Disease Program

To schedule a consultation with our Aortic Disease Program, call 1-855-828-TAVR 1-855-828-8287 and connect with our program coordinator.

Scheduling a procedure

If you have a referral to schedule a procedure, contact the team at the facility where you want to have the procedure completed:

Allegheny General Hospital
320 East North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(412) 359-8820

Forbes Hospital
2570 Haymaker Road
Monroeville, PA 15146

(412) 858-7088

Jefferson Hospital
565 Coal Valley Road
Jefferson Hills, PA 15025

(412) 469-7900

Saint Vincent Hospital
232 West 25th Street
Erie, PA 16544

(814) 453-7767