Aortic Arch Aneurysm Symptoms & Treatment | MedStar Health

A serious, but often symptom-free, aortic bulge

An aortic arch aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of the curve of the candy cane-shaped aorta, the body’s largest artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It’s a type of thoracic aortic aneurysm and can involve the blood vessels that supply your head and neck.

They can form blood clots, block blood flow, and cause the aorta to rupture or press on nearby body parts. Our vascular surgeons have a great deal of experience treating aneurysms. Our Complex Aortic Center one of the few in the mid-Atlantic region to offer complex procedures to repair aneurysms, including minimally invasive techniques.

What are the symptoms?

Most people will not have symptoms unless there is a rupture, at which point you may experience:

  • Clammy, sweaty skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sharp pain in the upper back

If you believe you have an aneurysm that has ruptured, call 911 immediately.

Before rupturing, an aortic arch aneurysm may cause:

  • Coughing or hoarseness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in your chest, jaw, neck, or arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the neck

What causes an aortic arch aneurysm?

The most common causes of aortic arch aneurysms are smoking and high blood pressure. You’re also at increased risk as you age due to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, known as atherosclerosis.

Some connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome, also can increase your risk for developing this type of aneurysm.


Diagnosing a potential heart or vascular condition is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Abdominal Duplex Ultrasound

Abdominal duplex ultrasound is a combination of a traditional and Doppler ultrasound that assesses the blood vessels in your abdomen for blockages or aneurysms.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.


In some cases, careful monitoring, medication, and lifestyle modifications may be enough to treat an aortic arch aneurysm without surgery. For more complex cases, we offer individualized treatment options.

Aneurysm Surgery

Surgery is used to repair bulges in blood vessels after they have ruptured or to prevent them from rupturing. Surgery may take several approaches: traditional open surgery, a minimally invasive endovascular method, or a hybrid of the two.

Fenestrated Aortic Aneurysm Repair

Fenestrated aortic aneurysm repair is a procedure using custom stents to treat aneurysms that affect multiple branches of the aorta.

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