Traumatic Aortic Injury

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A car accident, bad fall, or other trauma can cause injuries inside and outside your body. Traumatic aortic injury is a partial or complete tear in the wall of your aorta caused by trauma.

The aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body. If not treated quickly, a traumatic aortic injury can be life-threatening. A tear in your aortic can cause:

  • Severe bleeding inside your body
  • Drop in blood pressure

If you have a tear in your aorta, you might feel:

  • Pain in your chest where you were hurt
  • Pain in your abdomen or back
  • Like you can’t catch your breath

Treating Traumatic Aortic Injury at UVA

The treatment you need depends on how bad your injuries are. A minor injury might not need more than rest. But, damage to your aorta can be an emergency. You’ll likely need a procedure or surgery if you have a tear in your aorta.

At UVA, our cardiac trauma surgeons have expertise in repairing heart injuries. When your life is at stake, we’ll move fast. We've received special recognition for artery, valve, and bypass surgery procedures.

An Open Heart Surgery Alternative

If we have time, we can avoid a major operation. We can brace your aorta with a stent-graft. This procedure doesn’t require deep cuts. This means your recovery will:

  • Take less time
  • Cause less pain
  • Have fewer possible problems

The stent-graft is placed using a kind of surgery that only uses small cuts (minimally invasive).

Diagnosing Aortic Trauma

We use these tests to check your aorta:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)