What Is Thoracic Aortic Disease?

Types for AneurysmsThe aorta is the largest artery in the body, extending from the heart down through the chest (thoracic aorta) and into the abdomen (abdominal aorta). It carries oxygenated blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Thoracic aortic disease includes aortic aneurysms and dissections, atherosclerotic disease, infections and traumatic injuries.

Ruptured thoracic aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections represent life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention. Thoracic aortic aneurysms affect approximately 15,000 people in the United States each year.

Anatomy of the thoracic aorta

Aorta with its major branchesTo understand thoracic aortic disease, it is helpful to understand the parts of the thoracic aorta:

  • Aortic valve
  • Aortic root
  • Ascending thoracic aorta
  • Transverse aortic arch
  • Descending aortic arch
  • Thoraco-abdominal aorta
  • Abdominal aorta

Meet the Thoracic Aortic Disease Team

Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care.

Related Resources

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm and Aortic Dissection: A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of the aorta resulting in an abnormal widening or ballooning of the vessel’s normal width.