A tortuous aorta is an aorta with a twisted or distorted shape. A tortuous aorta may increase the risk for a variety of conditions or complications, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The aorta is the largest artery in the human body, and distributes freshly oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The aorta is divided anatomically into four segments: the ascending aorta, aortic arch, thoracic aorta and abdominal aorta.
The ascending aorta originates at the opening of the aortic valve of the heart, and shares a pericardial sheath with the pulmonary trunk. The aortic arch loops over the right pulmonary artery and descends downward to the descending portion of the aorta. The descending aorta can be divided into thoracic and abdominal segments, relative to the cavity in which they are contained.
According to the American Heart Association, twisting of the thoracic segment is most common among the elderly. A tortuous aorta may be associated with low circulation, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Esophageal pain may also be experienced due to displacement by a tortuous aorta. The condition can push the esophagus out of place, which leads to chest pain, according to the National Institutes of Health. A sliding hiatal hernia exacerbates this condition, and occurs when the top of the stomach and the esophagus both protrude through the hole in the diaphragm called the hiatus.
Surgery can repair tortuous aorta, says InnovateUs. In one procedure, the surgeon resects the twisted part of the aorta and sutures the healthy ends together. The doctor may also prescribed medication to treat high blood pressure. Another way to treat a tortuous aorta is through balloon angioplasty, in which the physician places a catheter into the artery, threads a balloon inside it and inflates the balloon. A stent holds the balloon in position, and once in place allows for easier blood flow though the dilated artery.