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Blood vessels are the channels or tubes that distribute blood to body tissues. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body. It carries blood from the heart to all other parts of the body.
The aorta is made up of these parts:
An aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge that can happen in weaker parts of the aorta. Aneurysms can happen anywhere in the aorta. For example, an aneurysm in the chest is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm.
Risk factors that can raise your chances of developing an aortic aneurysm over time include:
Having an aortic aneurysm means the layers of the aorta may get so weak or thin that they can cause:
A rupture or dissection can cause death if not treated urgently with surgery.
Your doctor may recommend taking medicine and making lifestyle changes to help slow the growth of an aortic aneurysm. For example:
Your doctor may recommend surgery if the aneurysm reaches a certain size and depending on other factors (such as age, medical history, and health condition).
Open surgery replaces the section of the aorta affected by the aneurysm with a durable fabric tube (graft) connecting the healthy ends of the aorta.
Endovascular stent graft
A device called a stent graft is put inside the aorta to divert the flow of blood away from the aneurysm.
What is aortic dissection?
An aortic dissection is a tear in the inner wall of the aorta, causing separation of the layers of the aortic wall. There are two types of dissections depending on which part of the aorta is affected:
Who is at risk?
Risk factors that can raise your chances of developing an aortic dissection over time include:
What are the symptoms?
Treatment for Type A aortic dissection
Acute Type A aortic dissection is a dangerous, life-threatening condition. It’s important to get medical attention right away.
Your doctor may prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure before surgery to prevent the dissection from getting worse.
Type A aortic dissection is treated with open surgery:
Treatment for Type B aortic dissection
Your doctor can usually treat acute Type B aortic dissection with medication.
Surgery may be needed for complicated cases:
What are the long-term health issues?
After receiving urgent treatment for aortic dissection, you may need to:
You will need life-long follow-up with CT scans, MRIs and/or echocardiograms for monitoring.
You may need open surgery or endovascular stent graft if the aorta continues to grow over time.
Where can I get more information?
Find UHN Brochures on different health topics.
Visit UHN Patient & Family Learning Centres to find health and wellness resources.