What is an aortic aneurysm?
The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood to the body, and is therefore called an artery. Because the aorta is an artery, its walls are made of up three layers; a thin inner layer, a muscular middle layer (that gives the vessel its flexibility under pressure from the filling blood), and a fiber-like outer layer that gives the vessel strength to not burst when the heart pumps blood to the
Aortic aneurysms occur when a weakness develops in part of the wall of the aorta; three basic types are usually found. If all three layers of the vessel are affected and weakness develops along an extended area of the vessel, the weakened area will appear as a large, bulging region of blood vessel; this is called a fusiform aneurysm. If weakness develops between the inner and outer layers of the aortic wall, a bulge results as blood from the interior of the vessel is pushed around the damaged region in the wall and collects between these layers. This is called a dissecting aneurysm because one layer is "dissected" or separated from another. If damage occurs to only the middle (muscular) layer of the vessel, a sack-like bulge can form; therefore, this is a saccular aneurysm.
An aortic aneurysm is a general term for any localized dilatation or aneurysm of the aorta, usually representing an underlying weakness in the wall of the aorta at that location. This physical change in the aortic diameter can occur secondary to an intrinsic defect in the protein construction of the aortic wall, trauma, infection, or due to progressive destruction of aortic proteins by enzymes. The last is the most common cause of aneurysmal disease although the origin of this enzymatic destruction is not known.
Most intact aortic aneurysms do not produce any symptoms and frequently cannot be detected by a physician's physical examination without imaging tests. Untreated, aneurysms tend to become progressively larger, although the rate of enlargement is unpredicatable for any individual. The risk to an individuals health, however, results primarily from the potential of an aortic aneurysm to rupture causing massive internal hemorrhage usually resulting in a quick death. Rarely, clotted blood which lines most aortic aneurysms can break off and result in an embolus.
Aortic aneurysms commonly occur in the abdominal aorta, as abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA), where the walls are thinner. These can grow to a large diameter. Some may grow to over 6 inches before rupturing. An abdominal aortic aneurysm can often be palpated by firm pressure above and around the navel as a large, pulsatile mass.
Aortic aneurysms less commonly form in the thoracic aorta, where they are known as thoracic aortic aneurysms. See also aneurysm of sinus of Valsalva. In about half of the individuals with a thoracic aortic aneurysm, an underlying cause is Marfan's syndrome. Most of the rest of the individuals with thoracic aortic aneurysms have hypertension. Syphilis is a rare cause of ascending aortic aneurysms.
More information on aortic aneurysm and other aortic valve diseases
What is an aortic aneurysm? - An aortic aneurysm is a localized dilatation or aneurysm of the aorta, usually representing an underlying weakness in the wall of the aorta at that location.
What causes an aortic aneurysm? - Most aortic aneurysms occur in the abdominal aorta, the main cause being arteriosclerosis. There is a familial tendency to aortic aneurysms.
What're the symptoms of aortic aneurysm? - Most intact aortic aneurysms do not produce any symptoms. The ballooning of the aneurysm does not cause any symptoms unless it becomes large enough.
What're the complications of aortic aneurysm? - Half of all persons with untreated abdominal aortic aneurysms die of rupture within 5 years. Spontaneous blockage of the aorta can also occur.
How is aortic aneurysm diagnosed? - Aortic aneurysms can be diagnosed from their symptoms. An ultrasound scan is the easiest way to detect an aortic aneurysm.
What's the treatment for aortic aneurysms? - Medical therapy of aortic aneurysms involves strict blood pressure control. Symptomatic aneurysms require surgical treatment to prevent complications.
What's an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)? - An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge in the aorta in abdomen. Most AAAs occur in association with advanced atherosclerosis.
What're the symptoms of abdominal aortic aneurysm? - Symptoms of abdominal aortic aneurysm include a pulsing sensation in the abdomen, and pain ranging from mild to severe.
How is abdominal aortic aneurysm diagnosed? - Because abdominal aortic aneurysms may not cause any symptoms at the beginning, they are diagnosed by chance during a physical examination.
What's the treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysm? - Treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm depends upon the size of the aneurysm. Surgical treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm is often preformed.
What is aortic valve disease? - An aortic valve disorder usually does not cause any symptoms in its early stages. Infection on an abnormal aortic valve leads to a disease called infective endocarditis.
What is aortic insufficiency? - Aortic insufficiency is the leaking of the aortic valve of the heart that causes blood to flow in the reverse direction during ventricular diastole.
What's aortic valve regurgitation? - Aortic valve regurgitation develops hen the valve leaflets fail to close properly during the heart's relaxation phase.
What causes aortic valve regurgitation? - Causes of aortic valve regurgitation include being born with a defective aortic valve, wear and tear from aging, infection of the lining of the heart.
What're the symptoms of aortic regurgitation? - Symptoms of aortic regurgitation include chest pain, excessive sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath that worsens with exertion or lying down.
How is aortic valve regurgitation diagnosed? - A doctor diagnoses aortic valve regurgitation by hearing a heart murmur or other abnormal noises when listening with a stethoscope.
What're the treatments for aortic regurgitation? - Medicines to improve the pumping action of the heart may be given to reduce the severity of the regurgitation. Valve replacement surgery is usually recommended.
What is aortic stenosis? - Aortic valve stenosis is a heart condition caused by narrowing of the aortic valve. Aortic stenosis is the inability of the aortic valve to open completely.
What causes aortic stenosis? - Congenital aortic stenosis is caused by improper development of the aortic valve in the first 8 weeks of fetal growth. Age related calcification of the valve is the most common cause.
What're the symptoms of aortic stenosis? - Symptoms of aortic stenosis include shortness of breath (dyspnea), passing out (syncope), and chest pain (angina pectoris).
How is aortic stenosis diagnosed? - Aortic stenosis is often diagnosed due to the presence of a heart murmur. The gold standard for diagnosis is an echocardiogram.
What's the treatment for aortic stenosis? - Patients with mild aortic stenosis do not require treatment. Valve replacement surgery is indicated for patients with severe aortic stenosis.
Aortic valve replacement surgery - Aortic valve replacement surgery is an open heart procedure for treatment of narrowing (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation) of the aortic valve.