Aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 15,000-20,000 deaths annually.
Aortic disease is often insidious. Most people with aortic aneurysms experience no symptoms, unless they are extremely large or an aortic dissection occurs. For most people, their aortic condition is discovered incidentally while being tested for other reasons.
A number of famous people have died of aortic catastrophes, including:
- Albert Einstein,
- Olympic volleyball champion Flo Hyman,
- Broadway composer of “Rent” Jonathan Larson,
- diplomat Richard Holbrook,
- musician Gordon Lightfoot,
- Lucille Ball,
- George C. Scott, and
- actor John Ritter
Aortic aneurysms, which result from weakening of the aortic wall, can lead to rupture or dissection (a tear in the aorta). The risk of these events increases as the size of the aneurysm increases. Rupture of the aorta most frequently results in immediate death. Aortic dissection is the most common catastrophe of the aorta. As many as 40% of people with aortic dissections die instantly, and the risk of the death increases 1-3% every hour.