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Thoracoabdominal Aneurysm

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A thoracoabdominal aneurysm (TAA) is a bulging or expanding area of the section of the aorta (body's largest artery) that extends from the chest to the abdomen. Thoracoabdominal aneurysms can be one of the most complex aneurysms to treat due to their location.

The greatest concern with a TAA is that it may grow quickly and rupture or leak blood. Aneurysms that rupture can cause severe internal bleeding, which can be fatal. Fortunately, this condition can be successfully treated and cured when diagnosed prior to rupture.

Why Choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?

The vascular surgeons at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center have extensive experience with repair of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms, including repair of complex cases.

What Is a Thoracoabdominal Aneurysm?

The aorta is the largest artery in your body, running from your heart through the middle of your chest and abdominal area. If the section of the aorta that extends from your chest to your abdomen becomes weakened, it may become engorged with blood, creating a bulge called an aneurysm.

The larger the aneurysm is, the greater the risk of it rupturing. A ruptured aneurysm puts you at risk for life-threatening internal bleeding. When TAA is detected before a problem develops, your doctor may monitor its growth. If the thoracoabdominal aneurysm is rapidly growing or large enough, surgical repair may be indicated.

Most people do not initially experience symptoms with thoracoabdominal aneurysm. However, the following symptoms may indicate that an aneurysm is present:

  • Mass in the abdomen
  • Pulsating in your abdomen (similar to a heartbeat)
  • Sores, discoloration or pain on your feet (due to material shed from an aneurysm)
  • Stiff or rigid abdomen
  • Sudden, intense pain in your chest, abdomen or lower back (may signify an aneurysm that is about to rupture; seek immediate medical care)

A ruptured aneurysm is very dangerous and requires emergency medical care. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pain

What Causes a Thoracoabdominal Aneurysm?

While the exact cause is unclear, thoracoabdominal aneurysm may be caused by multiple factors that damage the aortic wall. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is thought to play an important role. Infection, injury to the aorta and genetic disorders, including Marfan syndrome, are also factors that increase the risk of developing a thoracoabdominal aneurysm.

Other risk factors that contribute to TAA include:

Many of these risk factors can be reduced or eliminated by changing your lifestyle.

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Diagnosis of Thoracoabdominal Aneurysm

Thoracoabdominal aneurysms are usually detected during an examination for another condition. Tests to confirm the presence of a thoracoabdominal aneurysm include:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – A noninvasive, sophisticated imaging procedure that uses large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures inside the body.
  • CT scan (computed tomography scan, also called CAT scan) – An imaging procedure that uses X-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional, detailed images of the body, including bones, muscles, fat and organs.

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Treatment of Thoracoabdominal Aneurysm

Treatment of a thoracoabdominal aneurysm depends on its size and the symptoms an individual may be experiencing. The goal is to prevent the aneurysm from ever rupturing. Medication to control high blood pressure and to lower cholesterol may be prescribed. Surgery may also be indicated.

A ruptured aneurysm is a very dangerous condition. Although it is possible to repair a ruptured aneurysm surgically, it is important to identify and treat aneurysms before a rupture occurs.

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Ohio State Medical Center Physicians Who Treat This Condition

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