Image reproduced by permission from the Society for Vascular Surgery.
The aorta is the main blood vessel from the heart that delivers oxygenated blood to the entire body. The ascending thoracic aorta extends upward in the chest from the top of the left ventricle of the heart. It then curves like a candy cane (aortic arch) downward through the chest (descending thoracic aorta) into the abdomen (abdominal aorta).
An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal bulge or ballooning in the aorta resulting from a weak area in the wall of this blood vessel. These weak areas can be caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or connective tissue disorders.
Aneurysms that continue to expand or are large can result in rupture or aortic dissection. Aortic dissection is when the layers of the aortic wall separate, causing life-threatening internal bleeding. Treatment depends on the size, location and growth rate of the aneurysm; as well as the patient's overall health and symptoms.
Types of Aortic Aneurysms
An aneurysm can be characterized by its location, shape, and cause. Types of aortic aneurysms by location are: