What Is Tortuosity of the Descending Thoracic Aorta?

Tortuosity of the descending thoracic aorta is a condition in which the aorta is misshapen and is characterized by abnormalities in blood vessels, particularly in arteries, says Genetics Home Reference. The descending thoracic aorta is one of four sections of the biggest heart artery called the aorta, notes WebMD.

Arterial tortuosity syndrome is a rare genetic condition that affects connective tissue, including blood vessels, explains Genetics Home Reference. Elongated arteries cause tortuosity because the end points of an artery are fixed, so the extra length twists and curves. This condition sometimes also results in other problems with blood vessels, including constriction and abnormal bulging.

Tortuosity of the thoracic aorta is sometimes a sign of atherosclerotic disease, says a 2006 article in Angiology. Atherosclerosis is a disease that potentially leads to serious problems because plaque builds up in the arteries and reduces the flow of blood, explains National Institutes of Health. This malformation of the aorta sometimes also displaces the esophagus and causes chest pain.

Tortuosity is associated with aging and hypertension, but other atherosclerotic factors affecting this abnormality are not clearly understood, notes Angiology. Obesity potentially contributes to a shortening or an elongation of the aorta. Fat deposits from obesity sometimes elevate the diaphragm, which then pushes on the aorta. Alternatively, obesity leads to arteriosclerosis in some cases, which potentially stretches the aorta.