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What is aortic dilation?

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Quick Answer

Aortic dilation, or enlargement, of the aorta is typically part of an aortic aneurysm, according to WebMD. If the dilation ruptures, severe bleeding and death result.

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Full Answer

The aorta is the largest artery in the body, explains WebMD. It carries oxygen-laden blood away from the heart and toward the rest of the body. The walls of the aorta are naturally very stretchy to accommodate differences in blood flow, but weakening of the walls or extreme pressure causes bulges to form. If the bulge ruptures, major bleeding follows and death can occur in a matter of minutes. Bulges also cause blood to flow more slowly in that section of the aorta, leading to a risk of blood clot and stroke.

In many cases, aortic aneurysms present no symptoms and discovery is accidental, occurring during a test for some other problem, states WebMD. When symptoms do occur, they tend to include pain the abdomen, chest or back. Because there are two types of aortic aneurysm, abdominal and thoracic, the location of the pain is an indicator of the type of aneurysm.

It is possible for doctors to repair an aneurysm with surgery, notes WebMD. First, however, doctors may monitor the aneurysm to determine if it is increasing in size. After repair, or to prevent an unrepaired aneurysm from growing in size, doctors recommend lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and lowering cholesterol.

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