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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Thoracic Aortic Disease Treatment

Ruptured thoracic aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections represent life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms affect approximately 15,000 people in the United States each year.

Thoracic aortic diseases include:

Aortic aneurysms  Infections 
Aortic dissections  Traumatic injury 
Atherosclerotic disease   

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 to ensure state-of-the-art patient care, using the most advanced therapies available, practicing the safest techniques of circulation management using specialized perfusion techniques during surgery on the thoracic area. 

The team uses a comprehensive monitoring system that tracks heart, brain, and spinal cord function during surgery. This helps the Thoracic Aortic Disease program team achieve better long-term clinical outcomes for each patient.

Treatment Options for Aortic Aneurysm

Medical Management

Once diagnosis of a thoracic aortic aneurysm has been 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 to monitor the size of the aneurysm.
Serial testing is usually completed every six months to one year, depending on the size of the aneurysm.

Surgical Options

Surgical options for thoracic aortic aneurysm include:
  • Minimally invasive surgery or thoracic endovascular aortic valve repair (TEVAR)
  • Standard open operation
Surgical repair is necessary when the thoracic aortic aneurysm reaches a significant size (5-6 cm) that increases the risk of dissection or rupture.

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Medical therapy and serial testing may include:
  • Echocardiogram
  • Medication to control cholesterol
  • Medications 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
  • Risk Factor Modification

Diagnosis of Thoracic Aortic Disease


The following tests may help your physician diagnose thoracic aortic disease, including:

Clinical Trials for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm


Several clinical research trials are currently underway at the Center for Vascular Disease and Center for Heart Valve Disease to investigate and improve the care for patients with thoracic aortic disease. These ongoing clinical research trials  help to ensure that our patients with thoracic aortic disease continue to receive the most innovative care in the country. For more information regarding these clinical trials, visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an e-mail or call 312-926-4000.

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