Aortic stenosis means your aortic valve does not open widely enough to allow adequate blood flow from your heart to your aorta.
At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, we offer the full range of treatments for aortic stenosis including surgical and minimally invasive valve replacement. In fact, we were one of the first medical centers to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) — a minimally invasive treatment for severe aortic stenosis.
An aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel stretches or bulges in one place. An aortic root aneurysm is an aneurysm that occurs specifically in the beginning, or root, of the aorta. The aorta is the body's largest blood vessel; it transports blood to the body from the heart. An aortic root aneurysm is also called a dilated aortic root.
Certain disorders increase risk for aortic root aneurysms, including connective tissue disorders or hereditary disorders such as:
Autoimmune or inflammatory diseases affecting the arteries also raise risk. These diseases include:
Other medical conditions and lifestyle factors that increase risk are:
Aortic root aneurysms can also result from congenital heart defects or from blunt trauma (an extreme blow) to the chest.
The aortic root contains a valve that allows blood to pass from the heart to the aorta. This valve is pushed open when the heart pumps blood out. The valve then closes to prevent blood from flowing back in from the aorta.
When an aneurysm stretches the aorta, the valve is unable to close completely. Because the valve remains open, blood that has been pumped into the aorta can flow back into the heart. This causes several problems:
Though some people are at higher risk for this condition, they will not necessarily develop an aortic root aneurysm. Individuals with a higher risk should focus on healthy lifestyle choices, eating heart-healthy foods, and not smoking.
If you have been diagnosed with an aortic root aneurysm, your condition should be monitored regularly by a knowledgeable doctor. Individuals diagnosed with aortic root aneurysms should also monitor their blood pressure with their physician. Strict blood pressure control is essential for the treatment of aortic root aneurysms.
You should also ask your doctor if you can exercise, and how much. A dilated aortic root does not necessarily rule out exercise, but your doctor will advise you on the type of exercise you may do.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is one of the world's premier centers for comprehensive cardiovascular care.
We use a team approach with every patient we treat.
We treat patients facing the most complex heart and vascular conditions, and advance the science and medicine in this area through research.
Aortic root aneurysms frequently have no symptoms. In fact, doctors often discover this condition by chance when taking an x-ray or CT scan for a different reason. Some possible symptoms of the aneurysm are:
If the aneurysm dissects or ruptures, symptoms include:
An aneurysm dissection or rupture is a medical emergency.
This type of aneurysm is often discovered on an x-ray or CT scan taken for another reason.However, people with certain diseases may be screened for this condition if they develop any symptoms at all.
This condition can be diagnosed by x-ray or ultrasound of the heart.
If either of these tests indicates a possible aneurysm, additional tests such as an MRI or CT angiogram may be performed to measure the size of the aneurysm.
Need for treatment depends on the size of this aneurysm and on other medical conditions you may have.
The aortic root dilation, or bulge, may grow larger, but it will not shrink on its own.
If your aneurysm is 50 percent larger than the rest of the artery, surgery may be required.
Doctors usually recommend surgery when an aortic root dilation reaches 5 centimeters. If the aneurysm is not yet this large, and you are not having complications, your doctor may suggest waiting to see if the aneurysm is growing.
However, your risk of rupture may be higher, even for a small aneurysm, if you have a connective tissue disorder or other medical condition.
This type of aneurysm can be treated by rebuilding the aortic root, as well as the aortic valves (if damaged), or by using grafts in the vessel.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with this condition, it is important to understand the risks of waiting, and the risks of treatment. The risks of surgically repairing an aortic root aneurysm are small if the aneurysm is not causing complications. If the aneurysm has dissected, the risks of surgery are greater. A ruptured aneurysm is a medical emergency that may be fatal if not treated immediately.