Diseases of the Thoracic Aorta
The aorta is the largest artery in the body. It extends from the heart, down through the chest (thoracic aorta) and into the abdomen (abdominal aorta), carrying oxygenated blood away from the heart to the rest of the body.
Thoracic aortic diseases include:
Thoracic aortic aneurysms affect approximately 15,000 people in the United States each year.
Anatomy of the Thoracic Aorta
To understand thoracic aortic disease, including thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection, it is helpful to understand the parts of the thoracic aorta, including:
Treatment Options for Aortic Aneurysm
The treatment options for aortic aneurysm include:
Surgical repair is necessary when the thoracic aortic aneurysm reaches a significant size (5-6 cm) that increases the risk of dissection or rupture.
Team-Based Approach for Treatment
The Thoracic Aortic Disease program at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is designed to manage all aspects of thoracic aortic disease from the aortic valve down through the thoraco-abdominal aorta. This program is led by co-directors:
They have established a comprehensive system of care to treat thoracic aortic disease that relies on an integrated, team-based approach that includes:
This team of specialists works together to ensure state-of-the-art patient care, using the most advanced therapies available, practicing the safest techniques of circulation management using specialized perfusion techniques during surgery on the thoracic area.
The team uses a comprehensive monitoring system that tracks heart, brain, and spinal cord function during surgery. This helps the Thoracic Aortic Disease program team achieve better long-term clinical outcomes for each patient.
Symptoms of Thoracic Aortic Disease
Thoracic aortic aneurysms develop slowly and are typically without symptoms (asymptomatic). However, if symptoms are present, they may include:
Most common type of aortic aneurysms: thoracic and abdominal.
In addition, the following can be a sign of more serious disease:
Diagnosis of Thoracic Aortic Disease
The following tests may help your physician diagnose thoracic aortic disease, including:
Several clinical research trials are currently underway at the Center for Vascular Disease and Center for Heart Valve Disease to investigate and improve the care for patients with thoracic aortic disease. These ongoing clinical research trials help to ensure that our patients with thoracic aortic disease continue to receive the most innovative care in the country.
For more information regarding these clinical trials, visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an email or call 312-926-4000.
For more information regarding thoracic aortic disease and the treatments available, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312-NM-HEART (664-3278) or request a first time appointment online.