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Healtheuniversity > English > Cardiac College > Treat Heart Disease > What Is Heart Disease > Aortic Aneurysm

Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body. It carries blood from your heart to all other parts of your body. An aortic aneurysm is when part of your aorta becomes weak and bulges out like a balloon. An aneurysm can be located in your chest (called a thoracic aorta aneurysm) or your abdomen (called an abdominal aorta aneurysm).


Many factors that make it more likely that you will develop an aortic aneurysm:

  • Being over 60 years old
  • Being male
  • Smoking and using tobacco
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in your arteries)
  • Having family members who have aortic problems
  • Bicuspid aortic valve (your aortic valve has 2 flaps instead of 3)
  • Certain genetic conditions, connective tissue disorders, or inflammatory disorders
  • Untreated infections, such as syphilis or salmonella
  • Traumatic chest injury (such as from a fall or vehicle crash)


Complications of an aortic aneurysm include rupture (the wall breaks and causes bleeding inside your body) and dissection (a tear in the layers of the aorta’s wall). Some aneurysms may never rupture or lead to dissection, but when it happens, it is a life-threatening situation that usually requires urgent surgery and repair.


Some people have an aortic aneurysm without symptoms, especially if the aneurysm is small. Aortic aneurysms often grow slowly. As the aneurysm grows, symptoms may include pain or discomfort in your chest, abdomen, or back.

Symptoms that a thoracic or abdominal aortic aneurysm has ruptured or dissected include:

  • Sharp, sudden pain in your upper back that spreads downward
  • Pain in your chest, jaw, neck, or arms
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath

The main difference in the symptoms between these aneurysms is that the pain or discomfort is usually more severe in the abdomen compared to the chest (thoracic region).


An aortic aneurysm can be diagnosed with imaging tests, such as:

  • Ultrasound
  • Echocardiogram
  • CT scan (computed tomography)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

Your doctor will decide which is the best imaging test for you. One factor they consider is the location of the aneurysm — whether it’s in your chest or abdomen.


To help slow the growth of an aortic aneurysm, your doctor may recommend that you:

  • Take blood pressure medicine (such as a beta-blocker or ACE-inhibitor)
  • Stop smoking and using tobacco
  • Do mild to moderate intensity exercise (no strenuous activities)
  • Eat a healthy heart diet

Your doctor may recommend surgery if the aneurysm reaches a certain size. Their recommendation also depends on other factors such as your age, medical history, and health condition.

It is possible that a person has both aortic valve disease and aortic artery disease. Some people may have surgery to treat both conditions at the same time.


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