About Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA)

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm (TAA)


While a thoracic aortic aneurysm can be harmful if it ruptures, the good news is that there’s a treatment to prevent that from happening. Understanding the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options will help prepare for any quick action, if needed.


A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge or ballooning in a part of the aorta that runs through the chest. The aorta is the body’s major blood vessel. It runs from the heart, through the chest (which is called the thoracic area), and to the abdomen where it divides to supply blood to the legs.

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is considered serious. The bulge in the thoracic aorta can become weak, and the force of normal blood pressure can cause it to rupture. This can lead to severe pain and internal bleeding, or haemorrhage.


It is not known what exactly causes a thoracic aortic aneurysm in some people. The ballooning may be caused by a weakness in the wall of the aorta where it has become inflamed.

Some medical literature indicates that this inflammation may be due to clogged arteries (also known as hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis), whilst other causes may be related to smoking, obesity, heredity, injury, or other diseases.


Most people with a thoracic aortic aneurysm do not have any symptoms. Often, the aneurysms grow slowly and go unnoticed. Many never reach the point of bursting; others enlarge quickly.

When the aneurysm expands, others may notice chest pain, lower back pain, coughing, hoarseness, or difficulty breathing. Most aneurysms are identified during routine medical exams, such as X-rays taken for other reasons.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for thoracic aortic aneurysms are similar to those that contribute to clogging of the arteries, including:

  • Smoking or a history of smoking
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol (Hypercholesterolemia)

The risk of developing a thoracic aortic aneurysm increases with age. Family history, chest injury, and other diseases may also be risk factors. Some patients with a thoracic aortic aneurysm also have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.


If the doctor sees signs of a thoracic aortic aneurysm, he or she may arrange for special tests to confirm the diagnosis. Usually, these may involve imaging of the chest using x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerised tomography (CT), ultrasound imaging, and angiography.

The images produced by these methods help the doctor “see” inside the aorta as well as other blood vessels and organs in the body to see if a thoracic aneurysm is present.