Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is the blood vessel in your body that carries oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. It is also the largest artery in the body.

An aortic aneurysm is a bulging or “ballooning” in the wall of the aorta. If the bulge is uniform in shape, it is referred to as fusiform. If the bulge is small and lopsided, it is referred to as saccular. If the aneurysm grows too large, it can burst and cause someone to bleed to death.


Thoracic aortic aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that runs through the chest. Causes include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol

Symptoms include:

  • Jaw, back, neck and chest pain
  • Excessive coughing
  • Difficulty breathing

Abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that runs through the abdomen. Causes include:

abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Weak blood vessels
  • Injuries
  • Infections

Symptoms include:

  • Back, abdomen and groin pain
  • Tender abdomen
  • Enlarged abdomen


If the aortic aneurysm is small, no treatment may be necessary. The patient should closely monitor his or her symptoms. Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol may need medication. Periodic surveillance is recommended for many patients.

Open surgery is an option for both abdominal and thoracic aortic aneurysms. The surgeon makes a small incision and replaces the diseased portion of the aorta with a graft, which acts as a replacement blood vessel. Although this method is successful, it does require a long recovery time of up to three months.

Endovascular repair is a treatment option that involves a stent-graft (a small fabric tube with metal stents) being introduced into the body. The surgeon makes a small incision in the groin to access the arteries, and then moves the stent-graft up through these arteries until it is opened inside the diseased portion of the aorta. The stent-graft acts as a channel to help the blood flow through the weakened vessels. Endovascular repair usually takes one to three hours, and patients can return to normal activities in as little as two weeks. Patients should have routine follow-up visits with their doctor to check on the stent-graft.

Some content provided by The StayWell Company, LLC.