Thoracic aortic aneurysms often grow slowly and usually without symptoms, making them difficult to detect. Some aneurysms will never rupture. Many start small and stay small, although many expand over time. How quickly an aortic aneurysm may grow is difficult to predict.
As a thoracic aortic aneurysm grows, some people may notice:
- Tenderness or pain in the chest
- Back pain
- Shortness of breath
Aneurysms can develop anywhere along the aorta, which runs from your heart through your abdomen. When they occur in the upper part of the aorta, they are called thoracic aortic aneurysms. More commonly, aneurysms form in the lower part of your aorta and are called abdominal aortic aneurysms. Less commonly, an aneurysm can occur in between the upper and lower parts of your aorta. This type of aneurysm is called a thoracoabdominal aneurysm.
When to see a doctor
Most people with aortic aneurysms do not have symptoms unless a tear (dissection) or rupture has occurred. A rupture or dissection is a medical emergency. Call 911 or your local emergency number for immediate assistance.
If an aneurysm ruptures or one or more layers of the artery wall splits (dissection), you may feel:
- Sharp, sudden pain in the upper back that radiates downward
- Pain in your chest, jaw, neck or arms
- Difficulty breathing
If you have a family history of aortic aneurysm, Marfan syndrome or other connective tissue disease, or bicuspid aortic valve, your doctor may recommend regular ultrasound exams to screen for aortic aneurysm.
Jul. 29, 2014
- Aneurysm. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arm/printall-index.html. Accessed Feb. 15, 2013.
- Hiratzka LF, et al. 2010 ACCF/AHA/AATS/ACR/ASA/SCA/SCAI/SIR/STS/SVM guidelines for the diagnosis and management of patients with thoracic aortic disease: Executive summary. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2010;55:27. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/121/13/1544.full.pdf. Accessed Feb. 15, 2013.
- Aortic aneurysms. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. http://www.sts.org/patient-information/aneurysm-surgery/aortic-aneurysms. Accessed Feb. 15, 2013.
- Aortic aneurysms. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/print/cardiovascular_disorders/diseases_of_the_aorta_and_its_branches/aortic_aneurysms.html. Accessed Feb. 16, 2013.
- Papadakis MA, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2013. 52nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed Feb. 16, 2013.
- Marfan syndrome. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/mar/printall-index.html. Accessed Feb. 16, 2013.
- What is EDS? Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation. http://www.ednf.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2202&Itemid=88889278. Accessed Feb. 16, 2013.
- Booher AM, et al. Diagnosis and management issues in thoracic aortic aneurysm. American Heart Journal. 2011;162:38.
- Jondeau G, et al. Genetics of thoracic aortic aneurysms. Current Atherosclerosis Report. 2012;14:219.
- Shah AA, et al. Results of thoracic endovascular aortic repair 6 years after United States Food and Drug Administration approval. Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2012;94:1394.
- U.S. News best hospitals 2012-2013: Top-ranked hospitals for cardiology & heart surgery. http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/rankings/cardiology-and-heart-surgery. Accessed Feb. 16, 2013.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 18, 2013.
- Bowen JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 26, 2013.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.