Thoracoabdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Symptoms, Tests & Treatments | MedStar Health

Advanced care for a potentially life-threatening condition

The aorta, the body’s largest artery, runs from the chest through the abdomen, or belly. A thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of the aorta, which extends through both the belly and the chest.

This type of aneurysm increases your risk of aortic rupture, in which the aneurysm bursts and can cause major internal bleeding. Aneurysms that don’t burst can be dangerous if they grow large enough to form blood clots or interfere with the blood’s circulation.

Our Complex Aortic Center is one of the few programs in the mid-Atlantic region that treats complex cases. We bring together heart and vascular surgeons to provide minimally invasive and more traditional surgical treatments.

What are the symptoms?

You may not experience any noticeable symptoms unless the aneurysm bursts or grows large enough to block blood flow or press against other areas of the body.

Before a rupture, symptoms can include:

  • Severe or dull pain in the abdomen, chest, lower back, or groin
  • Sudden, sharp pain the back or abdomen

If a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm ruptures, symptoms might include:

  • Clammy, sweaty skin
  • Dizziness, nausea and/or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sudden, severe pain in the abdomen, chest, or lower back

Call 911 right away if you think you have an aneurysm that has burst.


Diagnosing a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm 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.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology used to create images of your heart and blood vessels.


Smaller aneurysms of this type may only need close monitoring, medication to reduce cholesterol levels, or lifestyle changes that may keep the aneurysm from growing, such as quitting smoking and eating a healthy diet. Larger aneurysms may require more advanced treatment, including surgery or minimally invasive stenting.

  • Endovascular Complex Repair of Thoracoabdominal Aneurysms: Endovascular complex repair of thoracoabdominal aneurysms is a minimally invasive treatment that involves smaller incisions, less pain, and faster recovery than traditional open surgery for these aneurysms, which often can be difficult to treat.

Additional information

Vascular and Endovascular Program

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