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Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms

What is a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. It delivers oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. An aortic aneurysm is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of the aorta. Over time, the blood vessel balloons and is at risk for bursting (rupture) or separating (dissection). This can cause life threatening bleeding and potentially death.

Once formed, an aneurysm will gradually increase in size and get progressively weaker. Treatment for a thoracic aneurysm may include surgical repair or removal of the aneurysm, or inserting a metal mesh coil (stent) to support the blood vessel and prevent rupture.

“Thoracic” refers to the part of the aorta that runs through the chest (thoracic aortic aneurysm). Aneurysms occur more often in the portion of the aorta that runs through the abdomen (abdominal aortic aneurysm).

What causes a thoracic aortic aneurysm to form?

Different disease processes can cause thoracic aortic aneurysms including:

  • Degenerative disease that causes breakdown of the tissue of the aortic wall
  • Genetic disorders
  • Family history
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Infection (rare)
  • Inflammation of the arteries (vasculitis)

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