November 01, 2018

Aortic aneurysm

Watching a weakened artery

An aneurysm occurs when one or more areas along the wall of the aorta become weak or damaged.

Aortic aneurysm

Your doctor noted a bulge (aneurysm) in your aorta while looking at a chest X-ray to check for pneumonia. The term was a bit alarming, but the doctor said that because of its small size, keeping an eye on the aneurysm with regular monitoring is the best course of action right now. In addition, your doctor said you can take steps to minimize growth of the aneurysm and reduce the likelihood of a serious rupture or tear.

How it develops

The aorta is the main blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the body. It exits from the top of your heart and curves downward through the chest and abdomen. It's the largest artery in the body, with other major arteries branching off it to supply blood to the brain, internal organs, arms and legs.

An aneurysm occurs when one or more areas along the wall of the aorta become weak or damaged. With time, the pressure of blood flowing through the weakened area can cause it to enlarge or bulge. Most commonly, bulges occur in the abdomen (abdominal aortic aneurysm), but they may develop in the chest (thoracic aortic aneurysm).

Most aneurysms are small and develop slowly. These types rarely cause symptoms on their own and are often discovered when an X-ray, ultrasound or computerized tomography (CT) scan of the chest or abdominal area is done for another reason.

When it becomes a problem

Aortic aneurysms are at risk of rupture, which allows blood to...