As the largest artery in the body, the aorta is a blood vessel that moves the blood and its oxygen-rich nutrients from the heart throughout the body. Sometimes an artery wall within the aorta weakens causing he wall to expand and bulge as blood pumps through it, and results in an aortic aneurysm. An aortic aneurysm that occurs in the chest area is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm. Thoracic aortic aneurysms are caused by the hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, a plaque buildup within the wall of the arteries that over time causes the aorta to weaken.
Those at risk for thoracic aortic aneurysms tend to be persons who:
- Have high blood pressure
- Have high cholesterol levels
- Are overweight
- Have a history of cardiovascular or peripheral vascular disease
Ascending and descending thoracic aortic aneurysm repair is typically one of two procedures:
Open-abdominal surgery – This requires the surgeon to open the abdomen, remove the damaged section of the aorta and insert a synthetic tube (graft) which is then sewn into place. This type of surgery has a one to two month recovery time.
Endovascular surgery – is a minimally invasive procedure where a long thin tube (catheter) with a synthetic graft is inserted into the artery through small incisions in the groin area. It is then directed through the body to the aorta and the aneurysm where it is secured in place to circumvent the diseased area and prevent the aneurysm from rupturing. Endovascular surgery has a shorter recovery time however; follow-up is more frequent as the grafts must be monitored for leaks.