East Tennessee's referral center for abdominal aortic aneurysm and thoracic aortic aneurysm care.
The Aortic Center at The University of Tennessee Medical Center is a regional referral center designed to provide easy and timely access for the evaluation and treatment of aortic aneurysms and other abnormalities of the aorta. The center combines unique resources with experienced specialists that provide compassionate care to patients. Our team of surgeons and clinical staff work closely together to ensure the best possible treatment for patients. As the region’s preferred hospital for the treatment of aortic disorders we strive to set the standard for quality care. Program highlights that allow the Aortic Center to provide unsurpassed leadership in the care of patients with aneurismal disease include:
- The regions only Level 1 Trauma Center
- UT LIFESTAR aero-medical Services
- 24/7 coverage in the operating room, endovascular suite and CVICU
- Highly experienced cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons
- Coordinated approach to care from screening to treatment
- Comprehensive diagnostic testing
The Aortic Center offers treatment for emergent and non-emergent diseases of the aorta such as:
- Acute aortic injuries
- Aortic dissections
- Aortic arch aneurysms
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Ascending aortic aneurysms
- Descending aortic aneurysms
- Iliac and visceral aneurysms
- Pseudoaneurysms of the aorta
- Marfan’s Syndrome
What is an Aortic Aneurysm?
Aneurysms occur most often in the aorta, the main artery of the chest and abdomen. The aorta carries blood from the heart to all parts of the body including the vital organs, legs and feet. It’s estimated that more than one million Americans are living with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and don’t even know it; that’s because AAA typically presents with no symptoms. Only 10-25 percent of people will survive if their aneurysm ruptures. The good news is that with a simple ultrasound screening, AAA can be found early and effectively managed. Aortic aneurysms are caused by progressive weakening of the aortic wall. As the wall weakens a ballooning of the vessel occurs. The aneurysm may grow larger and eventually rupture if it is not diagnosed and treated. Early detection is the best way to prevent the serious risks of aortic aneurysms.
Risk Factors for Aortic Aneurysms
- Men and women with a family history of aortic aneurysms
- Men older than 60 years of age
- Tobacco use
- History of heart or peripheral artery disease
- High blood pressure
What are the symptoms of aortic aneurysms?
- Chest, abdominal, back or side pain. Severe sudden pain may indicate an imminent rupture or dissection.
- A rhythmic, pulsating feeling in the abdomen similar to a heartbeat
- Coldness, numbness or tingling in the feet or hands
- Some patients may have no symptoms at all
How is aortic aneurysm diagnosed?
An aneurysm may be diagnosed by physical examination in your doctor’s office but is more often diagnosed by the use of non-invasive screening exams. These non-invasive exams are conducted on an outpatient basis and may include any of the following.
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
These non-invasive exams show the location and size of the aneurysm which will assist your physician in determining your best treatment option. Because aortic aneurysms may not cause symptoms, anyone age 60 or older who has risk factors for developing an aortic aneurysm should consider regular screening.
Ultrasound imaging of the abdomen is used to screen for abdominal aneurysms. This screening exam does not require a physician referral or order and may be covered by Medicare. If you have any of the risk factors listed above and would like to schedule a screening, please contact Health Care Coordination at 865.305.6970.
Treatment of Aortic Aneurysm/ Disorders
Aneurysms that are smaller than two inches in diameter and do not cause symptoms may be monitored regularly using an ultrasound or CT scan, a practice called “watchful waiting.” People with small aneurysms and high blood pressure may be given medication to lower their blood pressure and reduce the risk of the aneurysm growing or rupturing. The size, location, symptoms and overall risk factors of the patient will determine if surgical treatment is necessary.
In the event that surgical treatment is necessary, patients may have two options for treating the aneurysms:
- Open surgical repair
- Endovascular stent graft repair
Your surgeon will determine the type of repair needed based on location and complexity of the aneurysm.