Treating thoracic aortic aneurysm
How do aneurysms happen?
The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It starts at the chest and runs down into the abdomen where it braches into the iliac arteries – these carry blood to the lower parts of the body. Sometimes with again or other changes, a section of the aorta may weaken and begin to bulge.
The bulge can get larger over time as the walls of the aorta get thinner and stretch, sort of like a balloon. This bulge is called an aneurysm.
Sometimes an aneurysm occurs in the part of the aorta that runs through the chest. This is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA).
When a TAA is small, it may not be an immediate health risk. However, your doctor will want to check its condition regularly. If the TAA continues to grow, the stretched sections may become too weak to support the force of the blood flow. This type of aneurysm could burst, causing serious internal bleeding.
Unfortunately most patients with TAA have no symptoms. However, for people that do, the symptoms can include:
- Back of chest pain
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Hoarse coughing
Some causes also include:
- Family history
- Heart disease
- And high blood pressure
There are two types of treatment. Endovascular and open surgical repair. With endovascular repair, the doctor makes a small incision near the hip and inserts a stent graft. The stent seals off the aneurysm and makes a new path for the blood to flow.
Open surgery is performed by cutting through the breastbone or side of the chest. The aorta is repaired by replacing the aneurysm section with a fabric tube called a graft.
The graft is sewn in place to serve as a “replacement” blood vessel. This method has a longer recovery period than the endovascular method and can last as long as three months.
As with any open surgery there are risk factors to take into consideration. Discuss these with your doctor.