Types of Aortic Aneurysm

The aorta is the body’s largest artery. It carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Shaped like a candy cane, this blood vessel originates in the heart’s left ventricle, or upper chamber, and then curves upward into the chest before bending downward into the abdomen, where it splits into two arteries that carry blood to each leg. Other arteries branch off from parts of the aorta to carry blood to the upper body and to organs such as the kidneys, stomach, and intestines.

The wall of the aorta is composed of three layers. If the middle layer of the aortic wall, which consists of smooth muscle and elastic tissue, weakens and stretches, blood pumping through it can lead to a bulge, or aneurysm.

Small aneurysms generally don’t cause problems, but larger ones can cause blood to clot or an artery to rupture. This is a life-threatening event that requires immediate surgery.

Doctors at NYU Langone diagnose and classify the type of aortic aneurysm according to the location, size, and shape of the bulge.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

If an aortic aneurysm develops in your chest, it’s called a thoracic aortic aneurysm. Many people with a thoracic aortic aneurysm have no symptoms. There are several types.

Aortic Root Aneurysm

The aortic root is located where the aorta attaches to the heart. It includes the aortic valve, which prevents blood from flowing backward into the heart, and openings to the coronary arteries, which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. An aortic root aneurysm can cause the aortic valve to leak.

Ascending Aortic Aneurysm

The ascending aorta is the portion that extends upwards from the aortic root toward the curved part of the aorta. People with an ascending aortic aneurysm typically don’t experience symptoms, but those who do may feel a dull chest pain.

Aortic Arch Aneurysm

The aortic arch is the curved part of the aorta. It includes connections to arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to the upper body, including the arms, brain, and neck. Though most people with aortic arch aneurysm don’t notice symptoms, some may experience a dull chest pain, shortness of breath, and a hoarse voice.

Descending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

The descending thoracic aorta begins at the bottom of aortic arch and extends downward to the abdomen. Several other arteries branch off from this part of the aorta to supply blood to organs, lymph nodes, and tissue in the torso. A descending thoracic aortic aneurysm can cause back pain.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

If an aortic aneurysm develops in the abdominal aorta, the part of the aorta that is in the belly, it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. These are more common than thoracic aortic aneurysms and more common in men than in women. Small abdominal aortic aneurysms can grow quite large without causing symptoms and rarely rupture.

Thoracoabdominal Aortic Aneurysm

A thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm spans from the thoracic to the abdominal portions of the aorta. It rarely causes symptoms but can expand enough to tear or rupture. Because it crosses through parts of the aorta that have arteries branching off, repairing this type of aneurysm can be more complicated than other types.

More Resources

Meet Our Doctors

NYU Langone specialists provide care and support throughout your entire healthcare journey.

Browse Doctors