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What is a Thoracic Aneurysm?

Article Details
  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Also known as a thoracic aorta aneurysm or TAA, as thoracic aneurysm is a condition in which a section or area of the thoracic aorta becomes weak and begins to protrude. If left untreated, the weakened section can continue to expand throughout the chest and abdomen. In the worst case scenario, the aneurysm may burst, leading to massive internal bleeding that could result in death.

Unfortunately, it is possible to develop an aneurysm in the thoracic aorta and never know it. Some reports indicate that as many as fifty percent of people with the condition exhibit no symptoms whatsoever. When this is the case, the first outer sign of the thoracic aneurysm will be when the aneurysm actually bursts. In many cases, the sudden pain is experienced in the area of the heart, across the chest, or the stomach and lower abdomen.

When there are advance warnings of the development of a thoracic aneurysm, they often take the form of minor but consistent pain in the upper area of the back, along the jaw line, around the throat and along the nape of the neck. The individual may develop difficulty breathing or notice the onset of coughing or hoarseness for no apparent reason. Pain in the chest may also occur if the aneurysm is larger, as it may place additional pressure on the heart valves and increase the chances for a stroke to occur.

There are number of factors that place people at greater risk for developing a thoracic aneurysm. Poor eating and exercise habits that lead to high levels of bad cholesterol in the system can increase risks involving the aortic arch. In like manner, being overweight may predispose an individual to the development of a thoracic aneurysm. Smoking, which leads to a number of health issues including high blood pressure, can also contribute to the formation of this type of aneurysm.

Treating a thoracic aneurysm is imperative if there is any chance of preventing the weakened walls from bursting and causing internal bleeding. Physicians can use methods such as an MRI and a CT scan to monitor the status of the problem. Medication and lifestyle changes designed to lower blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels, and reduce total body weight are also common approaches to prevent a small aneurysm from expanding.

Should the thoracic aneurysm continue to expand, there is a good chance the physician will recommend surgery. Repairing the weakened wall using grafted tissue will greatly reduce the chances of a collapse at some future time, particularly if the individual takes steps to eat properly, avoid the use of tobacco, and get plenty of regular exercise.

Proactively dealing with a thoracic aneurysm greatly increases the chances for survival. When advance treatment does not take place, the mortality rate is extremely high, even if the individual is rushed to a hospital as soon as he or she collapses.

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