What is Aortic Disease?
Aortic disease is broadly defined as conditions affecting the aorta, the main and largest artery in the human body that supplies oxygenated blood to all of the body’s vital organs. When the aorta becomes diseased or damaged, the entire body’s blood supply can be jeopardized and can quickly transform into a serious medical emergency.
What is the Aorta?
The aorta starts at the root of the heart, where the artery is connected to the heart by the aortic valve. It hooks like a candy cane down the spine, sending blood to the, brain, arms, spinal cord, visceral organs (intestines, liver, stomach), kidneys, and legs.
An aortic aneurysm is a “ballooning” of the aorta that, if expanded far enough, can potentially rupture. An aortic aneurysm can occur in either the chest region, commonly called a thoracic aneurysm, or the abdomen region, often referred to as an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
Aortic dissection occurs when the middle layer of the aortic wall splits creating a “false” channel for blood flow. This dissecting process weakens the aortic wall making it more prone to rupture. When rupture occurs, survival is often less than 10%. Aortic dissection can also lead to obstruction of any of the branches of the aorta and ultimate organ death. Although many risk factors for aortic aneurysms have been identified, the exact cause remains unknown.