The aorta is the biggest artery in the body, exiting from the heart to supply blood to the whole body through branches of arteries. Disease or damage in the aorta can lead to abnormal narrowing and dilation (swelling) of the arteries. This includes aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection.
Aortic aneurysm refers to the abnormal dilation of the aorta. The dilation of the aorta’s wall may cause the aorta to tear or burst.
The 2 main types of aortic aneurysms are:
Abdominal aortic aneurysm
Abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs in the section of the aorta that passes through the abdomen
Thoracic aortic aneurysm
Thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs in the section of the aorta that passes through the chest cavity (thorax).
It is possible for a person to have both an abdominal aortic aneurysm and thoracic aortic aneurysm.
Aortic dissection refers to a tear in the inner layer of the aortic wall. Known as a dissection, this causes the one or more layers of the wall of the aorta to come apart. This allows blood to flow between the layers, further weakening the walls of the aorta.
If the aorta is completely torn apart by the dissection, this can lead to massive internal bleeding and severe pain. An aortic dissection is a medical emergency.