Thoracic Aortic Aneurism:

What Causes It?

Having an aortic aneurism of any type is risky. A thoracic aortic aneurism is a life-threatening condition often resulting in death from rupture or dissection. Since the risks associated with an aortic aneurism are so high, it is important for us to be aware of some of the things that can cause them.

Some factors can be said to cause aneurisms. Others are said to influence their development, growth or rupture. Some influences are beyond our control.

Other thoracic aortic aneurism causes are connected to life-style choices. To help sort this out let’s look at a list of influences that can lead to the development and rupture of a thoracic aortic aneurism.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurism Causes That Are Beyond Our Control

Unfortunately some of the things that influence the development of aneurisms are not the result of anything we do. They simply happen to us. Below is a list of such influences. 

Idiopathic Cystic Medial Degeneration can commonly lead to the development of a thoracic aortic aneurism. This condition is closely related to aging. It results in the breakdown of the elastic fibers which make up the walls of the aorta. As the aorta loses its elastic quality it becomes more prone to dilation, therefore increasing the likelihood of aneurisms.

Idiopathic cystic medial degeneration can cause the development of a thoracic aortic aneurism on any section of the aorta. Most often, however, it leads to aneurisms on the part of the aorta that ascends upward from the heart. This section is known as the ascending aorta. Aneurisms of the aortic arch and descending aorta are also common.

Though this condition is closely related to aging the true cause of it is currently unknown.

Marfan Syndrome is another condition that may lead to a thoracic aortic aneurism. It is a genetic condition affecting the connective tissues throughout the body.

The problems generated from this condition, therefore, are not restricted to aneurisms or even the cardio-vascular system. For example abnormalities in connective tissues in other parts of the body can result in…

  • slender fingers
  • curved spine
  • long arms and legs
  • tall lean body type
  • irregular or unsteady gait
  • abnormal joint flexibility
  • flat feet
  • stooped shoulders
  • dislocation of the optic lens
  • aneurisms of the aorta

Marfan syndrome involves a defect in the gene that makes fibrillin, a connective tissue protein found in the aortic wall.

Aneurisms of the ascending aorta are particularly common with Marfan syndrome. In such cases leakage of the aortic valve may also occur. 

Unfortunately aneurisms that are caused by this condition have a higher risk of rupture and dissection than aneurisms caused by other influences.

They also tend to do so at a smaller size than other types of aneurisms. Therefore, if you have Marfan syndrome it is important to identify and treat aneurisms while they are relatively small.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve is one which has only two leaflets instead of the usual three and is consequently prone to leakage and stenosis (narrowing or stricture).

As with Marfan syndrome a bicuspid aortic valve is composed of abnormal connective tissue and is frequently associated with aneurisms, especially of the ascending aorta.

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Thoracic Aortic Aneurism Causes That We Can Influence

Often aneurisms are caused or influenced by conditions that are more or less within our control. 

Generally speaking there are two things that may lead to the development of a thoracic aortic aneurism. The first is damage to the aorta and the second is pressure.

Some conditions – including those mentioned above – result in damage to the aortic wall. The resultant weakening makes the aorta less able to stretch and handle pressure. As pressure increases the weakened and less flexible aortic wall bulges at a weak spot.

A very common condition that damages the aortic walls is… 

Atherosclerosis. With atherosclerosis - hardening of the arteries - the arteries become clogged and hardened by a sludgy buildup restricting blood to important parts of the body.

As we know, atherosclerosis is a major factor incoronary heart disease. For this reason alone we should be very serious about avoiding this condition. But in addition to this, atherosclerosis has particular application to the development of aneurisms.

The 'hardening' of the arteries which results from atherosclerosis buildup causes the aorta to become less flexible. That, of course, means that it cannot respond well to pressure.

The aorta also becomes weaker as it ‘hardens’. As pressure pushes against the aortic wall it tries to expand. But like an old inner tube it cannot respond adequately to handle the pressure. And also like an old inner tube a bulge will eventually form at a weakened spot.

Unlike Idiopathic Cystic Medial Degeneration and Marfan Syndrome, atherosclerosis can often be controlled by simple lifestyle changes. Smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are the primary causes of atherosclerosis. 

Hypertension influences the development and rupture of aneurisms in at least two ways. As hinted at above, high blood pressure increases the sludgy build-up in our arteries known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, in return, increases the likelihood of aneurism development and rupture.

But hypertension plays another important role in our fight against aneurisms. Without pressure aneurisms cannot develop. Let’s return to the illustration about the old inner tube. If the inner tube is not inflated a bulge will never develop at a weakened spot.

Once the inner tube is over-inflated a bulge is likely to appear. As pressure continues to increase the inner tube is likely to form a leak somewhere in the bulging area.

High blood pressure increases our likelihood of developing an aneurism at a weakened spot along the aorta. Once an aneurism has developed, its size can vary in connection with the increase and decrease of blood pressure. As blood pressure increases the likelihood of rupture also increases. 

For more information on High Blood Pressure use this link.


All of us know that high total cholesterol is a heart health problem. But because of the connection between cholesterol imbalance and atherosclerosis, high cholesterol can be a factor in aneurism development.

High LDL, low HDL and high triglycerides can all contribute to a number of heart health issues. Thoracic aortic aneurism development is just one of them. If your cholesterol and triglycerides are too high you are at increased risk for a number of health issues. Some of these are:

  • stroke
  • congestive heart failure
  • heart attack
  • coronary heart disease

You can now add aneurisms to the list.

For more information on Triglycerides and Cholesterol, and what you can do, please use these links. 

Lower triglycerides with Omega-3.

Having a thoracic aortic aneurism can be very serious business. Unfortunately the causes are not always known. But it makes good heart health sense to have a general robust approach to heart health. Some things that influence aneurisms are within our control.

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