A thoracic aortic aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of the aorta caused by weakness in the wall of the artery. Atherosclerosis is by far the most common cause, although it may be caused by a variety of conditions, including high blood pressure, congenital disorders (such as Marfan's syndrome), trauma, or, less commonly, syphilis.


Most patients have no symptoms until the aneurysm begins to leak or expand. Most non-leaking thoracic aortic aneurysms are detected by tests, such as a chest X-ray or a chest computed tomography (CT) scan that are being run for other reasons. Chest or back pain may indicate acute expansion or leakage of the aneurysm.

Diagnostic Tools

  • Aortic Angiography
  • CT Scan
  • X-ray
  • Echocardiogram


  • Ascending aorta or aortic arch surgery
  • Descending thoracic aorta surgery

Learn more about heart surgery at MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute.

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877-74-HEART (43278)