What is an aneurysm?

An aneurysm is an abnormal widening of a blood vessel. In the ETTAA study we are particularly interested in aneurysms of the aorta in the chest. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. It is divided into different segments - the ascending, arch, descending thoracic, and abdominal aorta.

The ETTAA study will collect data on outcomes of treatments for arch and descending aneurysms, but patients in the study may have aneurysms in various locations. An aneurysm can be on one side of the aorta (saccular) or all the way around the aorta (called a fusiform aneurysm).

Aneurysms may be due to a number of reasons (e.g. atherosclerosis, hypertension, Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, infection) but all are characterised by a weakening of the aortic wall so that it dilated in response to the pressure of blood inside the aorta.

As the aneurysm grows, the chance of the aortic wall tearing (called a dissection) or rupturing increases. Therefore, once an aneurysm reaches a certain size, or if it appears to be growing quickly, doctors may recommend intervention in the form of either surgery or stenting.


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