The aorta is a large artery that carries blood from the heart through the abdomen to the legs. The thoracic aorta is located in the chest and is made up of three segments: the ascending aorta, aortic arch, and descending aorta. A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a bulging or ballooning of any of these segments of the aorta. Similar to a balloon, as an aneurysm continues to enlarge, the walls of the aorta stretch making them much thinner. The aortic aneurysm eventually reaches a point where it loses its ability to stretch any further. At this point, without any treatment it may rupture, causing potentially fatal bleeding.
Why Do I Have a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm?
There are many factors that can put you at risk of developing a thoracic aortic aneurysm. They may vary significantly depending on the location of the aneurysm itself:
- Cystic medial degeneration
- Inherited connective tissue disorders: Marfan syndrome or Ehler-Danlos syndrome
- Family history of thoracic aortic aneurysm
- Coronary artery or heart disease; including associated risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, age greater than 55, and male gender
- Infection or syphilis
- Takayasu’s arteritis