Aortic Arch Aneurysm

If you have pain in your chest, you should always see a doctor. One possible cause of chest pain: An aortic arch aneurysm (AAA).

An aneurysm is a bulge or weakness in the wall of your blood vessels. Your aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body. An aortic arch aneurysm affects the aortic arch, a curved part of the aorta that’s in your chest. An aortic arch aneurysm can burst, which can be life-threatening.

At UVA Health's Aortic Center, our aorta specialists have the latest tools and training to manage or repair an aortic aneurysm. We've been recognized for our experienced, high-quality heart care, especially in aortic, valve, and bypass surgery.

Treating Aortic Arch Aneurysms

Aortic arch aneurysm

Treatment for aortic arch aneurysms includes:

  • Close monitoring: We’ll check the size and growth of your aneurysm regularly. This helps us decide when treatment is needed.
  • Help with lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, controlling diabetes, and reducing your cholesterol help keep an aneurysm from growing.
  • Medication: Reduces high blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
  • Surgery: We can repair aneurysms with a supportive tube (called a stent graft) inside the blood vessel. We place the stent-graft through an artery in your leg. In some cases, you may need open surgery (requiring a larger cut into the chest) to repair the aneurysm with an artificial blood vessel.

We also strive to address aneurysms before they start. Our genetic counselors can check you and your at-risk family members for issues in the aorta. They can also check you for other conditions that can lead to aneurysms.

Getting Diagnosed With AAA

Our specialists can diagnose you with:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Angiography
  • Echocardiography

What Causes an Aortic Arch Thoracic Aneurysm?

Aortic arch aneurysms can be caused by:

  • Cholesterol buildup in your blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • Takayasu's arteritis
  • An existing thoracic aneurysm that spreads

Symptoms of an aneurysm include:

  • Severe or dull pain in the abdomen, chest, lower back, or groin
  • Sharp, sudden pain in the back or abdomen

Aortic Arch Repair at UVA

An aortic arch aneurysm weakens the walls of the aortic arch. Aortic repair surgery can prevent the aneurysm from rupturing or bursting. W. Darrin Clouse, MD, discusses treating aortic aneurysms at UVA’s Aortic Center.