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Learn more about the UPMC Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease.
Learn more about the UPMC Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease.

UPMC Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease

Thoracic aortic disease can be catastrophic for patients — cutting lives short for some, and leading to devastating disability for others.

The Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease (CTAD) is a center of excellence — established by the UPMC Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery — that follows a cohesive and multidisciplinary system for delivering care. The CTAD aims to provide timely, comprehensive, and individualized disease management strategies for patients suffering from complex thoracic aortic diseases.

Aortic Support Group: Led by the experts at the UPMC Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease, the Aortic Support Group is a free resource open to all patients and concerned family members who have an aortic aneurysm, suffered an acute aortic dissection, or have a genetic condition that puts you at risk for aortic disease. Learn more and sign up for our support group.

Read Our Patient Stories

Aortic Root Aneurysm

For as long as he can remember, Kyle Conway has known he’d need surgery one day to fix an aortic aneurysm.

Read Kyle's story.

Coronary Artery Aneurysm

After discovering a mass on Mark's heart the size of a tennis ball, UPMC experts performed life-saving surgery.

Read Mark's story.

About the UPMC Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease

Thoracic aortic disease refers to conditions that affect the aorta — the largest artery in the body — which carries all the blood that is pumped out of the heart. Bulging or weakened areas in the wall of the aorta, known as aneurysms, can form due to disease or genetics. Aneurysms will enlarge over time, and then may be at risk for tearing (dissection) or rupture, which can cause life threatening bleeding and potentially death. Treatment options, based on your condition and the size of aneurysm or extent of the dissection, include medication to help control your blood pressure or surgical intervention to repair the affected portion of the aorta.

Approximately 15,000 Americans are diagnosed with thoracic aneurysms (TAA) each year. Thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms (TAAA) are less common.

Why choose UPMC for thoracic aortic disease care?

At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease, our multidisciplinary approach to care and extensive experience – including 899 open heart cases and 229 aortic cases in 2018 – offers patients many benefits.

  • Ability to have a comprehensive evaluation at one location.
  • Minimally invasive treatment options include endovascular thoracic aortic repairs using stent grafts and aortic root reconstructions that preserve the aortic valve.
  • Access to the latest cardiovascular research and trials – the Center is a leading enroller in the International Registry of Acute Aortic Dissections (IRAD), as well as the leading implanter of the Cook Zenith Dissection Endovascular System.
  • The multidisciplinary team from the Center For Thoracic Aortic Disease, developing the protocols of tomorrow, published a total of 65 aortic-related publications in 2018.

Optimizing care. Saving lives.

The CTAD brings together experts with defined clinical and academic focuses on conditions and treatments for thoracic aortic diseases, including:

Thoracic Aortic Diseases/Conditions We Treat

Treatment Options

What To Expect

Advanced care with a single office visit

Patients with thoracic aortic disease often must consult many different specialists to address various aspects of their disease. At the UPMC Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease, our system streamlines care for patients.

When patients are referred, they undergo a comprehensive evaluation by the integrated, multidisciplinary team, at one location — the Thoracic Aortic Clinic at UPMC Presbyterian.

We offer consultations by specialists, including:

  • Cardiologists
  • Cardiovascular surgeons
  • Geneticists
  • Radiologists
  • Vascular surgeons
  • Neurologists

These appointments often can be coordinated with diagnostic imaging and cardiology testing in the same clinic, often in the same day. By bringing specialized testing and experts to the patient, the CTAD helps break down communication barriers, so that specialists can more closely collaborate on treatment planning for patients with thoracic aortic disease.

Those treatments may include minimally invasive approaches. Compared to traditional, open surgery, minimally invasive approaches offer patients the potential for:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Fewer complications
  • A quicker recovery

Qualifying patients may be treated with thoracic endovascular therapy (stent grafts), a minimally invasive approach that could delay, or eliminate, the need for open-heart surgery.

Research at the Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease

Improving care through research

The Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease’s surgeons are actively involved in ongoing research, publishing 65 aortic-related publications in 2018, to advance patient care and form new strategies to better manage diseases affecting the thoracic aorta. Highlights include:

  • CTAD surgeons developed ways to reconstruct a patient’s aortic root while preserving the heart’s native valve. This offers an alternative to valve replacement with a mechanical valve (which could require patients to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives), or a tissue valve (which could require additional surgeries).
  • Our surgeons have also developed novel means of preserving intercostal arterial blood flow with autologous vein grafts to limit spinal cord ischemia risk with open thoracoabdominal aortic replacement procedures for large thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms.

View a list of publications and learn more about trials and research conducted at the Center for Thoracic Disease and at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

Our Experts at the Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease

Ibrahim Sultan, MD
Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Director, Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease

Derek Ray Serna-Gallegos, MD
Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Multidisciplinary Team



  • Christopher Deible, MD
  • Joan Lacomis, MD
  • Glenn Andrews, MD
  • Elliott Gozansky, MD
  • Sina Tavakoli, MD, PhD
  • Jacob Sechrist, MD


  • Jeffrey Balzer, PhD


Vascular Surgery

The goal of the Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease is helping primary care, emergency medicine, and subspecialty providers identify, treat, follow, and track the progress of their patients with thoracic aortic disease.

Pre-hospital referrals and transfers for thoracic aortic emergencies — like an aortic dissection, ruptured aneurysm, or traumatic aortic injury — are quickly simplified with a single phone call, from the patient or provider, to the hotline below.

Contact Us at the UPMC Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease

Referring physicians need only to make a single phone call to the Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease to initiate a comprehensive evaluation for their patient.

To refer a patient for a comprehensive evaluation, call 412-647-7070 or email

For emergencies and immediate referrals, call 412-647-7070.
Fax: 412-623-3717

Thoracic Aortic Clinic
UPMC Presbyterian
5 Fl, B-Wing
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease
Administrative Offices
UPMC Shadyside Medical Building Suite 715
5200 Centre Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Diagnosing Thoracic Aortic Dissection

Derek Ray Serna-Gallegos, MD, discusses the diagnosis and treatment of thoracic aortic dissection.

4 Facts About Bicuspid Aortic Valve

4 Facts About Bicuspid Aortic Valve | UPMC HealthBeat

Find out four facts about this condition and how to talk to your doctor if you’re facing repair or replacement.

Learn more from UPMC HealthBeat.

Treating Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms

Ibrahim Sultan, MD, director, Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease, discusses thoracic aortic aneurysms and how they’re treated.