Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel (aorta) in the chest. The bulge occurs in a weak spot in the vessel. A large aneurysm can be very dangerous. If it bursts, it can cause bleeding that leads to death.

A thoracic aortic aneurysm can be caused by an injury to the chest, hardening of the arteries, or an infection. Sometimes aneurysms run in families.

Small aneurysms may not need treatment. But you will need regular checkups to see how fast the aneurysm is growing. A large aneurysm may need surgery to repair the weak area of the aorta.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Control high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the chance of an aneurysm bursting. A low-salt diet and regular exercise can keep blood pressure under control. Your doctor may also recommend medicine to lower your blood pressure.
  • Control high cholesterol. A low-fat diet and regular exercise can help lower your cholesterol. Your doctor may recommend medicine to control your cholesterol level.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make the aneurysm grow faster. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight may not make the aneurysm any worse. But being at a healthy weight can reduce your risks from surgery if you need it.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. Ask your doctor how much, if any, is safe for you.
  • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 2½ hours a week. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have any new chest pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have any problems making your doctor visits.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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