Aortic Aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal enlargement or bulging of the walls of the aorta (the main artery carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body). The aortic aneurysm itself usually causes no symptoms and may go undiagnosed for years, but the complications of this condition can be life-threatening. Fortunately, once detected, an aortic aneurysm is treatable.

Abnormal dilation of the body’s main artery.

An aortic aneurysm doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, but it puts the aorta at risk of a tear or rupture, which is a potentially life-threatening event.

If you experience severe chest or back pain, trouble swallowing, sudden difficulty breathing, or low blood pressure, call 911 immediately. If you have a history of aneurysms, mention that.

Aortic aneurysms can develop as a result of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or certain kinds of infection. They can also be caused by genetic disorders, such as Marfan syndrome.

Marfan syndrome involves a change in the gene that regulates how the body makes connective tissue. This genetic disorder affects men and women equally. While someone with Marfan syndrome has a 50% chance of passing it on to their child, 1 in 4 people with Marfan syndrome have no family history of the disease.

Given that Marfan syndrome leads to weakened connective tissue, it’s not surprising that the aorta is one of the parts of the body that is most affected. If you have Marfan syndrome, it’s very important to visit your cardiologist and be screened for an aortic aneurysm.

For most people with aortic aneurysms, the most successful form of treatment is medication. For example, beta blockers and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) can help by slowing your heartbeat and lowering your blood pressure. Your cardiologist might also recommend avoiding certain activities that can put your aorta at increased risk. In more advanced cases, surgery may be necessary to replace the damaged portion of the aorta with a graft.