When atherosclerosis penetrates the wall of the aorta
Aortic ulcer is a rare disease, but it is known by many names: penetrating atherosclerotic ulcer and atherosclerosis of the aorta, just to name a few.
Expert Heart & Vascular Care
Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our heart or vascular specialists.
The aorta is the largest artery in your body, and it takes blood from the heart’s left ventricle, the chamber that pumps the heart, and delivers it to the rest of the body. Fatty clumps in the blood called plaque can build up in the aorta and form an ulcer, or cratering, over time. The ulcer can penetrate the wall of the aorta, decreasing blood flow and allowing blood to leak and cause internal bleeding.
Having an aortic ulcer puts you at risk for aortic dissection, a tear in the aorta that could rupture. Aortic ulcers can be life-threatening, and immediate treatment may be needed.
What are the symptoms of an aortic ulcer, and who’s at risk?
Symptoms of this disease usually begin soon after the ulcer forms. Your symptoms may include:
- Excess sweating
- Extreme abdominal pain or back pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Pain in the chest, back, arms or legs
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Weak, rapid pulse
Aortic ulcers often are diagnosed in older adults because plaque builds up in the arteries over time. If you have one of the following conditions or behaviors, you may be at greater risk:
- Arterial dissection
- Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries (personal or family history)
- Fibromuscular dysplasia, or twisted blood vessels
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- History of smoking or tobacco use
- High cholesterol
- Moyamoya disease, a blockage of certain arteries in the brain
- Takayasu’s arteritis
Abdominal duplex ultrasound is a combination of a traditional and Doppler ultrasound that assesses the blood vessels in your abdomen for blockages or aneurysms.
An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.
Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.
The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.
An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.
Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.
Our heart and vascular experts may recommend medication first, though surgery may be needed to repair the damage to the aortic wall.
Aortic surgery describes a variety of procedures to treat conditions that affect the aorta.
Endovascular complex repair of thoracoabdominal aneurysms is a minimally invasive treatment that involves smaller incisions, less pain and faster recovery than traditional open surgery for these aneurysms, which often can be difficult to treat.