What Is a Tortuous Thoracic Aorta?

A tortuous thoracic aorta is serpentine in its shape or path, according to Yale University School of Medicine. The thoracic aorta is the portion of the descending aorta above the diaphragm, according to InnerBody. The descending aorta begins at the posterior of the heart toward the left of the body.

The ascending aorta above the heart turns 180 degrees in the aortic arch, toward the left side of the body, before passing as the descending aorta through the thorax and abdomen, according to InnerBody.

An aorta described as tortuous on the basis of a simple chest X-ray could refer to an enlarged section of the aorta, which might represent the presence of an aneurysm, notes the American Heart Association, or it could indicate that a section of the aorta has more twists and bends than is typical, according to the Texas Heart Institute. Aortic tortuosity is not an uncommon finding in the elderly. To determine the extent of tortuosity, a simple chest X-ray is inadequate, and more advanced imaging such as computerized axial tomography or MRI scans of the chest are required.

A tortuous aorta is one of the symptoms of a rare disease known as Arterial Tortuosity Syndrome, according to the Institute of Genetic Medicine.