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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Medical Management for Thoracic Aortic Disease

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a widening or bulging of part of the wall of the aorta that can dissect (tear within the inner wall of the aorta) or rupture (break open), which represents a life-threatening emergency due to severe internal bleeding.

Medical Management & Serial Testing


Once a diagnosis of a thoracic aortic aneurysm is confirmed and surgery is either not currently necessary or an option, medical management and serial (routinely repeated) testing is required to minimize the growth and monitor the size of the aneurysm.

Medical management & serial testing (usually completed every six months to one year, depending on the size of the aneurysm) may include:
  • Medications: Used to minimize the growth rate of the aneurysm by slowing the heart rate, reducing the heart's force of contraction and lowering the blood pressure
  • Restriction of physical activities: Especially those requiring heavy lifting
  • Echocardiogram: A test that uses high-frequency sound waves to monitor the size of the aortic aneurysm
  • Appropriate genetic testing
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A test that monitors the size of the aortic root with detailed images of the heart chambers and valves, including 4-D MRI
  • Dual-source 64-slice computed tomography (CT) angiography: A test that divides the aorta into thousands of visualized slices producing near-perfect, three-dimensional, high-quality diagnostic images used to monitor the size of the aorta

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Team-Based Approach for Treatment


The Thoracic Aortic Disease program at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is designed to manage all aspects of thoracic aortic disease from the aortic valve down through the thoraco-abdominal aorta. This program is led by co-directors:

S. Chris Malaisrie, MD
Cardiac Surgeon 
Mark K. Eskandari, MD
Vascular Surgeon 

They have established a comprehensive system of care to treat thoracic aortic disease that relies on an integrated, team-based approach that includes:

Specialized nurses  Radiologists 
Anesthesiologists  Neurologists 

This team of specialists works together, using the results from serial testing to evaluate each patient for coexisting diseases involving other organ systems and to monitor changes in the size of the aneurysm.

If the aneurysm grows larger, indicating the progression of thoracic aortic disease, surgery is carefully planned and executed in a manner that minimizes patient risk.

Patients who have genetic (inherited) conditions may be at particular risk of aortic dissecton or rupture. These include conditions such as:

  • Marfan syndrome
  • Loeys-Dietz syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Familial thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection
  • Bicuspid aortic valve

Serial diagnostic imaging tests of the aortic root and ascending aorta with timely surgical replacement can help patients with these conditions get the treatment they need at the right time.

Contact Us


For more information regarding thoracic aortic disease and the treatments available, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 866-662-8467. To schedule an appointment, please call 312-695-4965 or request a first-time appointment online.


Last UpdateMay 30, 2013