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Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

A thoracic aneurysm affects the chest area and often causes no symptoms but can be life-threatening if it grows too large and ruptures or bursts. This is one of several types of aneurysms that can appear in the body.

Most people discover their aneurysms while being tested for another condition. A physician may spot the telltale bulge of a thoracic aneurysm while studying a chest X-ray, performing an ultrasound to investigate a heart murmur or from a CT scan to evaluate a chronic cough, for example.

The Heart and Vascular Center’s Aortic Institute is a multidisciplinary specialty center dedicated to caring for patients with medical and surgical conditions that affect the aorta. Our team specializes in thoracic aneurysms that affect the chest, as well as thoracoabdominal aneurysms affecting the aorta in the chest and abdominal regions The care team includes cardiothoracic surgeons, geneticists, cardiologists, vascular surgeons, interventional and diagnostic radiologists.

The Aortic Institute is one of the first and largest such institutes in the world providing clinical care for patients with aneurysms and one of the most active centers internationally for basic science and clinical research in aortic diseases. Our outcomes for safety and effectiveness for all types of aortic surgery are unsurpassed.

Patient Care

Our patient care team provides comprehensive management for patients with an aneurysm or aortic dissection (tear). Services include monitoring of aneurysm activity, clinical and genetic screening of family members, surgery and minimally invasive stent therapies.

During an initial patient consultation, the patient and family meet with the surgeon and the clinical nurse coordinator to discuss the patient’s case in detail. During this session, the doctor performs a physical evaluation of the patient, conducts a health history and discusses results of any patient tests conducted. Various tests and procedures may be needed to clarify the diagnosis and may be required before a surgery, if one is recommended. When surgery may not be an option, the patient and the doctor discuss other possible treatment alternatives.

Possible tests include:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • CT scan of chest and abdomen
  • Computed tomography angiogram (CTA) of coronary arteries
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Transthoracic echocardiogram

Post-surgical Evaluation and Continuing Care

The surgical team is available to answer any questions the patient may have following hospital discharge. Four weeks after surgery, a patient will meet with the surgeon and the clinical nurse coordinator for an evaluation to include a chest X-ray, an electrocardiogram, and a physical including a wound check; remaining sutures will be removed. Patients who have had aortic surgery will be scheduled for a CT scan of the chest about six months after post-surgical evaluation. Annual or bi-annual visits at the Aortic Surveillance Program are then scheduled to monitor the aorta.