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What is an aortic aneurysm?

An aortic aneurysm is a weakening in the wall of the aorta, which causes it to “balloon” or expand in size. Although an aneurysm can develop anywhere along the aorta, most occur in the section running through the abdomen (abdominal aneurysms). Others occur in the section that runs through the chest (thoracic aneurysms).

Aneurysms are often found incidentally during evaluation of other problems since they commonly cause no pain or discomfort. They can silently enlarge for long periods of time without being identified. When the aneurysm gets too large, the wall of the blood vessel can split or tear (aortic dissection/dissecting aortic aneurysm) or even “burst” under the pressure (aortic rupture/ruptured aortic aneurysm).

This content originally appeared online in "The Patient Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery" from the Society of Thoracic Surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.