Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm: Statistics, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
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Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm: Statistics, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a bulging or expanding of the wall of the upper portion of the aorta, caused by a weakening in that area.This is a serious health condition due to the possibility of aortic dissection and rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding.

What Is Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm?

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a bulging or expanding of the wall of the upper portion of the aorta, caused by a weakening in that area. The thoracic aorta is in the chest area, and can involve the aortic root, aortic valve, aortic arch and also the descending aorta. A  thoracic aortic aneurysm is a serious health condition due to the possibility of aortic dissection and rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding.

Statistics of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

  • Thoracic aortic aneurysm affects 15,000 people a year in the US, based on statistics from The Cleveland Clinic.
  • Death from ruptured thoracic aortic aneurysm is one of the 15 major causes of death in this country.
  • Occurring more often in men than women, thoracic aortic aneurysm increases in frequency with advancing age.
  • For individuals over 65 the prevalence is three to four percent. It occurs in slightly more than 10 out of every 100,000 people.
  • Forty-seven thousand deaths each year are attributed to aortic disease, although not all due to thoracic aortic aneurysm.

Causes of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

The causes of developing a thoracic aortic aneurysm are primarily atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This process damages the walls of the arteries causing plaque to build up, and eventually the excess plaque contributes to stiffness of the arteries and eventual weakness of the arterial wall. The risk factors contributing to atherosclerosis include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Excess weight
  • Family history of cardiovascular or peripheral vascular disease

Additionally diseases such as Marfan Syndrome, other connective tissue disorders, syphilis, tuberculosis and having a bicuspid aortic valve are considered to be contributing factors causing thoracic aortic aneurysm. In very rare circumstances trauma can cause a thoracic aortic aneurysm. Recent research suggests that a genetic component, such as positive family history of aortic aneurysms, can be a risk factor also.

Symptoms of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Thoracic aortic aneurysm is frequently asymptomatic, and in fact is sometimes only discovered by accident on CT Scan for an unrelated medical situation. These are the possible warning signs:

  • Pain in the jaw, neck and back
  • Chest or back pain
  • Coughing, hoarseness or difficulty breathing

Treatment of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Early diagnosis is the key to treatment, which depends on the size and location of the aneurysm. The larger the size or the faster the aneurysm grows, there is increased risk of rupture.

If the thoracic aortic aneurysm is small and not symptomatic, medical management may be advised with a repeat CT Scan or MRI in six to 12 months to monitor any change in size of the aneurysm. Blood pressure lowering medications may be prescribed to decrease the force of blood flow against the aortic wall, and especially near the aneurysm. Additionally The Cleveland Clinic suggests that a statin may be prescribed to help maintain the overall healthiness of the blood vessels.

If the thoracic aortic aneurysm is large or symptomatic, surgery is indicated to remove the aneurysm and replace that portion of the aorta with a synthetic graft. If the location of the aneurysm is close to the aorta, an aortic valve replacement may be necessary.

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/aorta_marfan/aorticaneurysm.aspx

http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_aortic_aneurysm.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aortic-aneurysm/DS00017

emedicine.medscape.com/article/424904-overview#a0199

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Comments (2)

Revisited for a well deserved V, prolific article.

It's great how you made an easy-to-glance outline on this topic. Well-done!

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