The aorta is the main blood vessel carrying oxygen rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The aorta is divided into sections for easy identification. The thoracic aorta is the section located within the chest ending at the diaphragm, and the abdominal section from the diaphragm to approximately the belly button area where the aorta ends and splits in the arteries of the legs.
An aortic aneurysm is a localised ballooning or enlargement of a section of aorta and can occur anywhere along the length of the aorta. Thoracic aneurysms are aneurysms that occur in the chest section of the aorta.
Aneurysms are more common in men than women and in most cases detected in people over 55 years old. Risk factors include a history of smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, or a known relative with aneurysmal disease. When a person is found to have an aneurysm, their family members should also have screening done after the age of 50 to rule out having an aneurysm.
The majority of aneurysms are stable when detected and only increase in size slowly over several years. Your doctor will monitor the aneurysm by the use of ultrasound and CT scans. Surgical intervention is considered for aortic aneurysms when they reach 5 - 5.5 cms in size, causing abdominal tenderness or showing signs of imminent rupture.