Aortic Root Aneurysm | MedStar Health

An aortic root aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of a specific part of the aorta, your largest artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of the body. This type of thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs at the point the aorta exits the heart, which is where the aortic valve is located. As the aortic root bulges, it can cause the aortic valve to leak blood back into the heart. This means less blood is pumped into the body. They also 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 is one of the few in the mid-Atlantic region to offer procedures for complex repairs and minimally invasive aneurysm repair.

What are the symptoms?

Over time, this type of aneurysm may cause:

  • Dull chest pain, particularly during exercise
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

However, 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.

What are the causes?

Like other aneurysms, these can be caused by smoking and high blood pressure. Your risk for developing an aortic root aneurysm also increases as you age due to a buildup of plaque in your arteries, known as atherosclerosis.

They also are found in some patients who have connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome or Loeys-Dietz syndrome.


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.

Angiogram (angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

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.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

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

Stress tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


In some cases, careful monitoring, medication, and lifestyle modifications may be enough to treat an aortic root aneurysm. We also may recommend replacing a section of the aorta, along with the aortic valve in some cases.

Aortic root surgery

Aortic root surgery is a complex procedure used to treat damage to the aorta and the aortic valve caused by an aortic root aneurysm.

Valve sparing or valve preserving surgery (reimplantation surgery)

Valve sparing surgery is a procedure to repair the aneurysm without replacing the aortic valve.

Additional information

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