Vascular Surgery - Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is the largest artery in the body. It delivers oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

The aorta is attached to the heart and travels through the chest into the abdomen. When the wall of the aorta becomes weak and diseased it may become larger and balloon outward, this is known as an aortic aneurysm. When it occurs in the chest it is known as a thoracic aortic aneurysm, also called TAA.

If the aneurysm is not treated it may burst leading to severe hemorrhage

Although thoracic aneurysms do not occur as often as abdominal aneurysms they may be more dangerous, as mortality is extremely high when they rupture.


HTN, smoking, obesity, emphysema, genetic factors

The symptoms of rupture include:

  • Sudden severe pain in the back.
  • Clammy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shock


If your doctor feels that you may have an Aneurysm he/she will confirm the diagnosis with either an ultrasound or a CT scan.


Once you have been diagnosed with an aneurysm you doctor will decide if the aneurysm needs to be repaired with surgery or if it can be observed with close follow up and imaging tests.

Open Surgery

An incision is made in the left side of the chest. The aneurysm and diseased material are removed. A tube made of PTFE or Dacron is then used to create a new aorta. The patient is typically sent to the intensive care unit (ICU) for several days for recovery.

Minimally Invasive Repair

Many thoracic aneurysms can now be treated with an endograft device. Small incisions are made in the groin using multiple wires and catheters; a stent is placed in the aorta to repair the aneurysm. This minimally invasive approach using the endograft device is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The patient typically goes home in 1-2 days.

Minimally invasive repair now allows doctors to treat many patients who were considered to be too high of a risk for an open surgery.

The physicians at SIUH specialize in minimally invasive repair of thoracic aortic aneurysms.