What is thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA)?

A thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a widening or ballooning of the ascending aorta, aortic arch and/or descending aorta located in the chest. Any untreated aortic bulging can weaken and continue to deteriorate the thoracic aorta until it becomes a severe, or even fatal, condition. Experts at the University of Chicago Medicine Center for Aortic Diseases specialize in identifying the location and severity of your aneurysm in order to tailor treatments to your specific thoracic aortic aneurysm.

Parts of thoracic aneurysm
This image indicates the three parts of the aorta where thoracic aneurysms can occur.

Risk Factors for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

The first physical warning signs of a thoracic aortic aneurysm might be jaw/neck, chest and upper back pain, but identifying the aneurysm before the symptoms increases survival rates. Knowing if you have certain risk factors that predispose you to thoracic aortic aneurysm can be the best prevention against this fatal condition. Typical risk factors include:

  • Age: Greater than 50
  • Gender: Thoracic aortic disease impacts women more than men
  • Family history: It has been shown that there are higher incidences of aortic disease and/or peripheral vascular disease (PVD) if one or more family members have been previously diagnosed
  • Genetic factors: Some congenital heart conditions, such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Turner syndrome and Loeys-Dietz syndrome lead to a higher risk of developing aortic disease
  • Pre-existing heart conditions: Existing valve disease, heart infection and inflammation can increase the risk of damaging the aorta
  • Lifestyle threats: The following comorbidities increase the likelihood of you having aortic disease:
    • Smoking
    • High blood pressure
    • High cholesterol
    • Diabetes

Prevention for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

If you are diagnosed with a thoracic aneurysm that does not require immediate surgery, our team will monitor your aneurysm using CT scans to prevent your condition from getting worse without treatment. Follow-up CT scans are usually scheduled 6 or 12 months apart depending on the current size of your aneurysm. Typically, we hold off on surgical intervention until the aneurysm reaches 6 cm in maximum diameter.

Lifestyle Management

Leading a healthy, or healthier, lifestyle can dramatically reduce your risk of aortic aneurysm. Having regular exams to monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure can lower your chances of having a severe an aortic aneurysm.

For those who smoke, making the effort to stop smoking is critical for long-term aneurysm prevention. You should also consider joining smoking cessation groups designed to help at-risk patients quit smoking.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Surgery and Treatment Options

Because we know that no two aneurysm patients are alike, we provide a comprehensive scope of medical and surgical treatments for thoracic aortic aneurysms. Your treatment plan may be a combination of treatments that are designed to complement your individual aortic anatomy, overall health, severity/location of the aneurysm and more.

Treatment options for an aortic aneurysm may include one or more of the following:

  • Controlling or modifying risk factors: Quit smoking, control blood pressure, manage blood sugar is diabetic/pre-diabetic to help slow the progression of the aneurysm
  • Observation: Routine CT scans to monitor the size and rate of growth of the aneurysm
  • Medication: Decrease factors such as hyperlipidemia (elevated levels of fats in the blood) and/or high blood pressure
  • Open Aneurysm Repair: Replacement of the diseased area of the aorta with a fabric graft
  • Endovascular Aneurysm Repair: A minimally invasive alternative to the open repair
  • Hybrid Aneurysm Repair: Combination of open surgery and endovascular to repair the aorta

NEXUS Aortic Arch Clinical Trial

Our NEXUS Aortic Arch Clinical Study is investigating the safety and effectiveness of the NEXUS aortic arch stent graft system treatment option.

Learn more about this clinical trial.

Thoracic Aortic Injury Registry Study

This clinical trial is collecting treatment and outcomes data for blunt thoracic aortic injuries (BTAI) for the Aortic Trauma Foundation global registry.

Learn more about this clinical trial.

Find an Aortic Disease Location Near You

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To speak to someone directly, please call 1-773-702-6128. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.

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