Dilated Aorta

All about the Dilated Aorta

A dilated aorta is nothing to sneeze at; it is a serious condition that could result in death if left untreated.  In fact, every year more than 10,000 Americans die from problems resulting from a dilated aorta.  (It is one of the top 20 causes of the death in the United States.)  The aorta is the major artery in the body, coming out from the heart and extending up and down the back before splitting off into smaller arteries.  If you think of the circulation system like a tree with a series of veins branching out throughout the body, the aorta would be like the trunk of the circulatory system.

Dilation of the Aorta

A dilated aorta is also known as an aortic aneurysm.  An aneurysm is a blood clot that causes a vein to balloon or distend.  Although we often think of such blood clots in terms of the veins in the brain, they also occur in aorta.  Aortic aneurysms are classified according to their location on the aorta, either at the root, in the abdomen, or in the thorax.  Each has slightly different treatments for the physician.

There are certain risk factors for developing a dilated aorta.  First, men are much more likely to develop an aortic aneurysm than women are.  Second, it has higher chance of occurring in those guys who are past the half-century mark in terms of age.  Other diseases and risk factors can also increase the chances of developing an aneurysm as well.  Studies have shown that diabetes and smoking both increase the incidence of a person developing an aortic aneurysm.

Symptoms of a Dilated Aorta

Although the vast majority of aneurysms don’t present any symptoms until they rupture or lead to other severe problems, aneurysms can present certain signs.  Abdominal aneurysms for example, will cause pain in the abdomen or numbness in the leg.  This occurs because as the aortic wall dilates it will come into contact with nerves that may get pinched or distended.

However, if the doctors do not discover the problem in time, the dilated aorta may undergo dissection; that is, the aortic wall may rupture or break apart.  Those who have undergone this experience, describe what feels to them like someone just ripped their insides open.  Not only is there intense pain in the chest area, but the patient will typically also start to sweat, will find that his or her heart is racing, and that he or she has labored breathing and has broken into a sweat.

Other symptoms that may sometimes occur in those suffering from an aneurysm are feeling satisfied even though the patient has not eaten very much.  In addition, the sufferer may feel as if they are about to throw up.  Some sufferers report that they felt confused during the attack, that they were light-headed, and that they were having difficulty focusing.

This is a very severe condition and if someone does not take the sufferer to a hospital right away, the patient has a good chance of dieing from the condition.

Those who have had a dissection occur may lose consciousness, or may actually have a heart attack.

Warning: If you feel any of these symptoms, or are in the risk groups associated with such aneurysms (for example, you have a history of heart disease or smoke) then you should get your condition checked out at the first sign of trouble.  A quick trip to the hospital could definitely mean the difference between life and death in this case.


The most common treatment for this condition is to operate to repair the aorta before complications arise.  Prognosis is good for any patients that get their condition diagnosed in time.