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UPMC Center for Aortic Disease

Our vascular specialists provide expert treatment of aortic disease, including complex aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections, using the latest techniques.

Why choose UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute for aortic disease treatment?

Our experts use leading-edge technology and techniques to diagnose and treat aortic disease. We offer a full range of tests and treatments for aortic disease, including:

Diagnostic Tests for Aortic Disease

  • Imaging tests. If your doctor suspects that you have aortic disease, he or she may order an imaging test such as an ultrasound, CT scan, x-ray, or MRI.
  • Cardiac catheterization. Cardiac catheterization (also known as a coronary angiogram) is a diagnostic procedure that allows your cardiologist to see blockages, blood flow, and other problems within the arteries leading to your heart.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). TEE uses echocardiography to check for aneurysm, heart valve problems, or the presence of a tear in the lining of your aorta. TEE is done by inserting a probe with a transducer down your throat.

Medications and Monitoring for Aortic Disease

Some types of aortic disease may be treated with medications that lower blood pressure or treat other underlying conditions. Your doctor may also monitor your condition over time to make sure it does not become worse.

Surgical Procedures for Aortic Disease

  • Endovascular thoracic and abdominal aortic aneurysm repair (EVAR/TEVAR). During an endovascular aortic aneurysm repair, your surgeon performs minimally invasive surgery inside your aorta using a special catheter that is inserted into your artery through a small incision in your groin. Your surgeon will use the catheter to insert a stent graft that reinforces the site of the aneurysm and allows blood to pass through.
  • Aortic aneurysm open repair. During an open aortic aneurysm repair, your doctor will repair your aneurysm through an open incision.
  • Emergent aortic dissection repair. Aortic dissection is a serious medical emergency that may require emergency surgical treatment. During the procedure, your surgeon will remove the largest possible area of the dissected aorta and replace it with a synthetic graft.

What is aortic disease?

Aortic disease is the name used to describe conditions that cause problems in your aorta, which is the largest artery in your body. Aortic disease can be life-threatening and can cause your aorta to split, which is called a dissection, or bulge out, which is called an aneurysm. Aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection may require surgical treatment.

Specific conditions that cause problems with your aorta include:

  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Aortic coarctation
  • Aortic dissection
  • Aortic infection
  • Aortic intramural hematoma
  • Aortic rupture
  • Aortitis (inflammatory aortic disease)
  • Aortobronchial fistula (ABF)
  • Aortoenteric fistula
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS)
  • Embolizing (shaggy) aorta
  • Giant cell arteritis
  • Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS)
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Penetrating aortic ulcer
  • Takayasu's arteritis

What are the symptoms of aortic disease?

In some cases, aortic disease may not cause symptoms. However, if you have an aortic dissection or aortic aneurysm, symptoms may appear suddenly and be severe. Aortic dissection and aortic aneurysm may cause symptoms including:

  • Pain in the chest, jaw, neck, or upper back
  • Wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness

Who is at risk for aortic disease?

Some types of aortic disease, such as Marfan syndrome or EDS, are present at birth. However, you may be at risk of developing aortic disease later in life if you have other health conditions, including:

  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • High blood pressure
  • Injury to the aorta
  • Structural heart problems
  • History of smoking

How can I prevent aortic disease?

Preventing heart disease and chronic conditions can reduce the risk that you will develop aortic disease. Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight are a great start. You also should control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, avoid smoking, and limit alcoholic beverages.

Need more information?

Call UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at 717-441-0578.

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UPMC Harrisburg
111 S. Front St., 2nd Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101

Phone: 717-441-0578
Fax: 717-221-5205

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