About Aortic Disease

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The aorta is shaped like a cane. The curved part extends up from the heart, branching off into blood vessels that supply blood to the head and arms. The aorta then descends through the chest and abdomen, where it divides into the blood vessels that supply the abdominal organs and legs.
Aortic disease can affect the part of the aorta that runs through your chest (thoracic aorta) or through your abdomen (abdominal aorta). Aortic disorders include:
  • Aortic Aneursym
    An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of the aorta. Because the bulge is a weakness in the wall of the aorta, the aorta may rupture, causing life-threatening internal bleeding.
  • Aortic Aneurysm/Dissection
    Aortic dissections occur when the layers of the aortic wall separate and tear. This also can cause the aorta to enlarge and possibly rupture.
  • Atherosclerosis
    Commonly known as blocked arteries or "hardening of the arteries," atherosclerosis is caused by high blood pressure and a buildup of cholesterol and fat within the artery. Severe atherosclerosis can damage the aortic wall.
  • Aortic Inflammation
    Inflammatory diseases, such as Takayasu's arteritis, may block the flow of blood through the aorta and weaken the aortic wall.
  • Connective Tissue Disorders
    Patients with Marfan Syndrome, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, and other genetic connective tissue disorders have weak aortic walls that can rupture or tear.