Types of Aortic Aneurysms
In UW Health's Complex Aortic Surgery Program, our Heart and Vascular Care surgeons have substantial expertise in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of all types of aortic aneurysms.
About the Aorta
The aorta is shaped like a cane. It extends up from the heart and branches off into blood vessels that supply blood to the head and arms. It then descends through the chest and abdomen, where it divides into the blood vessels that supply the abdominal organs and legs.
When the wall of the aorta becomes weakened, it may begin to bulge outward as blood is pumped through it. A slight enlargement of the aorta is called ecstasia. A larger bulge, more than 1.5 times the size of your normal aorta, is called an aneurysm.
- Fusiform aneurysmsappear as symmetrical bulges around the circumference of the aorta. They are the most common shape of aneurysm.
- Saccular aneurysms are asymmetrical and appear on one side of the aorta. They are usually caused by trauma or a severe aortic ulcer.
- Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms (TAA)develop in the part of the aorta that runs through the chest. This includes the ascending aorta (the short stem of the cane); the aortic arch (the cane handle); and the descending thoracic aorta (the longer stem of the cane).
- Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA) develop in the part of the aorta that runs through the abdomen. Most abdominal aortic aneurysms develop below the renal arteries (the area where the aorta branches out to the kidneys). Sometimes aortic aneurysms extend beyond the aorta into the iliac arteries (the blood vessels that go to the pelvis and legs).
Greater than 75 percent of aortic aneurysms are abdominal aortic aneurysms. They are found most often in men between the ages of 40 and 70.