What is a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm?
Runs Through Your Chest
A thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is an enlargement of the part of the aorta that runs through your chest. The aorta is the largest artery in your body and carries blood away from your heart to all the parts of your body.
About 25 percent of aortic aneurysms occur in the chest, with the rest occurring in the abdomen. TAAs can involve the aortic root, the ascending aorta, aortic arch or, most commonly, the descending aorta. Occasionally, an aneurysm may involve the aorta as it flows through both the chest and the abdomen. These are called thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms.
TAAs Can Rupture or Burst
Thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAAs) are a serious health risk because, like abdominal aortic aneurysms, they can rupture or burst. Ruptured aneurysms can cause severe internal bleeding, leading quickly to shock or death.
In one type of TAA, the walls of the aorta become weak and a section near the heart becomes enlarged. As a result, the valve between the heart and aorta cannot close properly and blood leaks backward into the heart.
Each year, thoracic aortic aneurysms affect about 15,000 people in the United States. Some people may have more than one TAA and some also have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Only about 20 to 30 percent of patients who make it to a hospital with a ruptured TAA will survive. That's why early treatment to prevent rupture is so important for such aneurysms, particularly large ones.