Mission magazine banner
A stent-graft is used to repair an aortic aneurysm.

All about the Aorta

August 2007

The aorta is the bodyís largest artery. Shaped like a candy cane and about the diameter of a garden hose, the aorta extends from the heart down through the chest and abdomen, where it divides into a vessel that carries blood to the abdominal organs and legs.


Aneurysms can develop anywhere in the aorta. An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of the aorta. Up to 25 percent of aortic aneurysms are thoracic.


An aortic aneurysm may be detected during an evaluation of a patientís history or during a physical exam. Many are found during routine medical tests such as chest X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds.


Treating an aortic aneurysm depends on its size, type and location in the body as well as a patientís overall health. If an aneurysm is large enough to demand surgery, or tests reveal that the aneurysm is quickly enlarging or leaking, immediate surgery may be recommended. If an aneurysm is small and asymptomatic, physicians may decide to take a "watch-and-wait" approach.

Patients who undergo the endovascular procedure benefit from decreased postoperative pain, a shorter recovery period and a reduced chance of complications. Because the technique is relatively new, patients require long-term surveillance.


  • ICU stay: 1-3 days vs. 3-5 days

  • Hospital stay: 3-5 days vs. 7-13 days

  • Rate of complications: 5% vs. 20%

Figures are average and vary according to patient.

Related Stories

Endovascular Experts
Inside Job


More stories:

Read current stories



Previous Issues

Current Issue (PDF)


Email us

HSC News

Make a Gift

University Home

UT Health Science Center
7703 Floyd Curl Dr.
San Antonio, Texas

© 2002 - 2015 UTHSCSA
Office of Communications
All rights reserved.

Links provided from UTHSCSA pages to other websites do not constitute or imply an endorsement of those sites, their content, or products and services associated with those sites.

Updated 12/11/14