Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Thoracic aortic aneurysm is a ballooning, weakened area in the upper portion of the aorta. It may also be called thoracic aneurysm and aortic dissection (TAAD) because an aneurysm can lead to a tear in the artery wall and can cause fatal bleeding. Slow-growing and small thoracic aortic aneurysms may not ever rupture, but fast-growing, large ones may.

Cardiovascular surgeons at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute are leaders in using advanced diagnostic technology and therapeutic intervention to diagnose and treat thoracic aortic aneurysms and lower your risk for blood clots.

Aortic aneurysm types

An aneurysm is a type of aortic disease that causes bulging or weakening in the artery wall. There are several types of aortic aneurysms, including:

Ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA)

This type of aneurysm is a bulging present in the part of the aorta that extends from the top of the heart’s left ventricle.

Descending thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA)

A descending TAA is bulging or weakness in the part of the aorta located in the back of the chest cavity.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)

An AAA is an enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta located in the abdomen. This major blood vessel is responsible for supplying blood to your legs.

Thoracic aortic aneurysm symptoms

Symptoms of a thoracic aneurysm may include:

  • Pain in the jaw, neck, chest, or upper back.
  • Wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath caused by pressure on the windpipe.
  • Hoarseness in the voice.
  • Trouble swallowing.

Anyone experiencing sudden or severe pain should seek immediate medical attention.

Diagnosing thoracic aortic aneurysms

Advanced cardiovascular imaging capabilities facilitate performing even the most intricate and challenging cardiovascular procedures. Your doctor may order one or more of these tests:

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

This scan uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed images and videos of your heart’s chambers, valves, and blood vessels in motion. Learn more about cardiovascular imaging.