Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Overview

What Is a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA)?

A thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a balloon-type bulge (aneurysm) in a weak or damaged wall of your aorta (your body’s largest artery).

The term “thoracic” refers to your chest. This type of aneurysm occurs in the portion of your aorta that’s located in your chest. (Your aorta runs from your heart all the way down to the bottom of your abdomen).

Most TAAs develop in the section of your aorta closest to your heart. They can prevent the valve between your heart and aorta from closing, which lets blood leak back into your heart.

Any type of aneurysm can be life threatening. TAAs are especially dangerous because they often have no symptoms until they rupture and become medical emergencies.

Causes

Aneurysms can be caused by a variety of factors, including health/lifestyle factors, conditions that weaken your arteries or genetic conditions. Learn more about all types of aneurysms.

World-Class Care

Aurora’s Specialized Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA) Care

You are in excellent hands when you choose an Aurora Health Care location for diagnosing and treating a TAA. Here’s why:

  • An integrated care team: Our team consists of surgeons and vascular specialists who collaborate closely on your TAA care. We often can suggest minimally invasive treatment options for you, so you face fewer complications and recover faster.
  • TEVAR experts: We are the most experienced team in Wisconsin offering thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair (TEVAR) procedures. Because we do this procedure so often, we do it extremely well. Learn more about TEVAR as part of our thoracic aortic aneurysm diagnosis and treatment options.
  • Innovative surgical centers: Our hybrid surgical rooms are the only ones of their kind in Wisconsin. They allow us to treat your TAA more quickly and with the latest technological options. Learn more about our cardiovascular surgery program.

Symptoms

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA) Symptoms

You may have a TAA and feel no symptoms at all. However, if the aneurysm gets large enough, it could press on nearby organs or block blood flow. In that case, symptoms could include:

  • Pain in your back, chest, jaw or neck
  • Unexplained coughing, hoarseness or difficulty breathing

If a TAA gets worse and ruptures, you need immediate, emergency medical care. Signs of a rupture may include:

  • Sudden, severe chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness or shock

Diagnosis & Treatment

Thorough Evaluation & Treatment for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms (TAAs)

Because they can be so dangerous, it’s important to identify and treat TAAs as quickly as possible.

If you don’t have any symptoms, but you’re at risk for developing aneurysms (for instance, you smoke or are an older male), your Aurora medical team may talk with you about it. Your doctor will probably suggest regular screening tests for aneurysms.

Diagnostic Tests

The most common tests we use for TAAs include:

  • Angiography: A catheterization procedure using special thin tubes allows your doctor to insert dye into your artery. This procedure makes blood vessels like your aortic artery easier to view. Learn more about cardiac catheterization.
  • Radiographic testing:
    • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound: An imaging method that uses sound waves to create pictures of your body’s organs and blood vessels, including your aorta

Find out more about heart and vascular testing and diagnosis at Aurora.

Treatment Options

We offer a variety of options for treating TAAs. They include:

  • Medication: Prescription medication can help lower your blood pressure, relax your blood vessels and reduce the risk of a small aneurysm bursting.
  • Thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair (TEVAR): Our surgeons are the most experienced medical professionals in Wisconsin at this minimally invasive procedure. Using a tiny, catheter tube, we insert a fabric-wrapped metal tube (stent-graft) to strengthen the weak spot in your thoracic aortic artery. Learn more about endovascular grafting.
  • Traditional aneurysm surgery: This procedure is similar to TEVAR, but your surgeon must make full incisions to do your surgery, rather than using a minimally invasive catheter. This is complex surgery, and you can expect to spend several days in the hospital. Learn more about aneurysm surgery.

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Our Center for Marfan and Aortic Disorders specializes in aortic conditions.

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