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Aortic Aneurysm

What is an Aortic Aneurysm ?


What is the aortic root?

The aortic root is the portion of the aorta (the major vessel supplying blood to the body) that is attached to the heart. It contains the aortic valve and gives rise to the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle). The aortic root is continuous with the ascending aorta (the portion of the aorta between the root and the aortic arch).

What is the aortic arch?

The aortic arch is the portion of the aorta where blood is directed to the brain and arms. The aortic arch has three major branches: the innominate artery, which supplies blood to the right arm and right side of the brain, the left common carotid artery, which supplies blood to the left brain, and the left subclavian artery, which supplies blood to the left arm. In addition to these branches, the aortic arch turns the flow of blood downwar ds to reach the descending thoracic aorta, which supplies the rest of the body.


What is an aneurysm of the aortic root?

An aneurysm is a ballooning of a blood vessel. This process may occur in any artery in the body. When it occurs in the aortic root, it is called an aortic root aneurysm. The bulging of the aortic root can lead to several serious problems. As the aorta dilates, the risk of rupture (breaking open) increases. An aortic rupture is typically fatal. The risk of rupture becomes quite high when the maximal (greatest) diameter of the aorta reaches five centimeters.

An aortic aneurysm also increases the risk of a dissection, or tear in the wall of the aorta, as the bulging increases. An aortic dissection is also a life threatening emergency and can lead to a full rupture. To learn more about aortic dissections, please click here.

Finally, an aneurysm can dilate the base of the aortic valve, causing aortic valve regurgitation. With regurgitation, the valve fails to adequately seal, allowing the reverse flow of blood and resulting in an inadequate blood flow to the body. As this process ensues, the heart may enlarge and result in congestive heart failure.
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