Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA)

A thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a stretching or ballooning of the aorta, the main blood vessel in the body. If the pressure on the aneurysm is too great, it can burst and may lead to death. Learn how TAA is diagnosed and treated at Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence.

Thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a life-threatening stretching or ballooning of the aorta, the body’s main blood vessel. The aorta extends upward from the top left chamber of the heart and curves like a candy cane downward through the chest and abdomen. It delivers oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

With each heartbeat, the walls of the aorta expand and contract, exerting constant pressure on the weakened aneurysm wall. Therefore, there is a potential for the aorta to burst or tear, which may cause life-threatening hemorrhage (uncontrolled bleeding) and death. 

About thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA)

The most common cause for thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is atherosclerosis, also called hardening of the arteries. TAA often has no symptoms.

Treatment for unruptured TAA

If diagnostic tests determine your aneurysm is not in immediate danger of bursting or rupturing, your doctor may schedule periodic tests to make sure it is not growing. Medications may be used to prevent it from getting larger. You may be able to prevent it from enlarging by quitting smoking, controlling blood sugar if you’re diabetic and losing weight.

If your aneurysm requires surgery, you can get the care you need from the vascular surgery program at Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence. Our vascular surgeons perform hundreds of procedures every year in our state-of-the-art operating rooms. 

Your vascular surgeon may consult with other highly skilled specialists from Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence as well as Lehigh Valley Heart Institute. This institute approach provides unmatched surgical expertise and the latest diagnosis and treatment options from across our network.

  • Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR): We offer the latest less-invasive treatment for TAA. Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) with Heli-FX® technology is effective and may benefit patients who are not eligible for other surgical treatments EVAR was first performed in the Lehigh Valley area at Lehigh Valley Health Network. EVAR is a minimally invasive (without a large incision) procedure that repairs a thoracic aortic aneurysm. EVAR may be performed in an operating room or a cardiac catheterization laboratory. The surgeon will make a small incision in each groin to access the femoral arteries in each leg. With the use of special instruments, along with X-ray images for guidance, a cloth and wire mesh tube, called a stent-graft, will be inserted through the femoral artery and advanced up into the aorta to the site of the aneurysm. The stent helps to hold the graft in place. The stent-graft is inserted into the aorta in a collapsed position and placed at the aneurysm site. Once in place, the stent-graft will be expanded (in a spring-like fashion), attaching to the wall of the aorta to provide support. The aneurysm eventually will shrink down onto the stent-graft. Compared to open surgery, this technique has less risk for complications and allows patients to recover more quickly.
  • Thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) open repairThe type of surgical repair of a thoracic aortic aneurysm will depend on several factors:
    • Location of the aneurysm
    • Type of aneurysm
    • Patient's tolerance for the procedure

To repair an aneurysm in the portion of the aorta that ascends from the heart, a large incision may be made through the breastbone. If the aneurysm involves damage to the aortic valve of the heart, the valve may be repaired or replaced during the procedure.

Follow-up care for TAA

After surgery for thoracic aortic aneurysm, the team at Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence is here to help you recover. Rehabilitation is an important part of your recovery. You will benefit from an individualized program of supervised exercise and health education.

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