A thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs when the aorta, the main artery that brings blood to the body, has an outpouching, or aneurysm, because the artery wall has become weakened. Left untreated, the aneurysm can tear or burst, causing death. Traditional surgery involves opening the chest, especially if the aneurysm is near the heart, has grown large, or is causing symptoms (although most patients will not have symptoms). The segment of enlarged artery is removed and replaced with a fabric tube. But a less invasive approach is also available depending on the location of the aneurysm. Boston Medical Center's cardiac and vascular surgeons specialize in the minimally invasive treatment of thoracic aortic aneurysms.
To repair aneurysms farther away from the heart, an aortic endograft can often be used. A graft is inserted through a small incision in the groin area and fed up to the aneurysm location. It forms a tight seal with the healthy artery above and below the aneurysm. This restores normal blood flow through the artery and eventually the aneurysm shrinks.