Aortic Aneurysm, Aortic Dissection: Causes and Who Is at Risk

The aorta is our largest blood vessel carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Given this critical role, diseases of the aorta can be life-threatening and may need emergency treatment. Here to talk about aortic disease and when you should seek medical care is Dr. Peter Rossi, a Froedtert & MCW vascular surgeon.

What is aortic disease?

There are generally three different types of aortic diseases. One is an aortic dissection, where there is a tear in the inside layer of the blood vessel that reduces blood flow to the organs. Another is an aortic aneurysm where the aorta swells up like a balloon and is at a higher risk of rupture as it enlarges. The third is aortic occlusive disease where blockages show up like plaque that reduce blood flow to the legs and to other organs.

Who is most at risk for aortic disease and who should be screened?

People who are at risk of aortic disease are primarily people who are current and former smokers and people over the age of 65. As we get older this becomes more common. People who should be screened are:

  • Anyone over the age of 65 who has a history of smoking
  • Men, over the age of 55 with a family history of aortic disease or abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
  • Women over the age of 65 with a family history of aortic disease or AAA.

What is the treatment for aortic disease?

Treatment for aortic disease can range anywhere from surveillance for small aneurysms, different types of aortic pathology — all the way up to minimally invasive surgery with stents or aortic replacement for larger cases

Why should someone choose a Froedtert & MCW provider for aortic disease treatment?

As an academic medical center, we're able to bring a large group of specialists together — from vascular surgery, interventional radiology and cardiac surgery — to treat every type of aortic disease from the simplest to the most complicated. We're able to offer access to clinical trials and devices that simply can't be found in other places.

Learn more about aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection treatments.