Aortic Surgery

Aortic surgery overview

Thoracic aortic surgery is performed to treat aortic disease or damage to the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your vital organs. The thoracic aorta is the part of the aorta that runs through the chest. Surgery addresses the problem by replacing or repairing the damaged area in your thoracic aorta.

When is aortic surgery needed?

Surgery is needed to treat aortic disease for various reasons. A primary cause for surgery is when part of the aortic wall weakens and dilates (widens) as blood is pumped through it. This bulging is called an aortic aneurysm, and can lead to aortic dissection (tear in the lining). An aneurysm can develop anywhere along the aorta. While both conditions are potentially life threatening, they can be effectively treated when caught in time.

Aortic surgery options

Heart surgeons at OHSU’s Knight Cardiovascular Institute perform elective (scheduled) or emergency thoracic aortic surgery, depending on the nature of your thoracic aorta condition. An endovascular stent graft, which provides "scaffolding" support for the artery, may be used to minimize the invasiveness of both elective and emergency surgery. Talk to your OHSU heart doctor to learn more about your aortic condition and treatment options.

Elective Aortic Surgery

Elective surgery can prevent life-threatening complications of aortic disease or damage. Elective thoracic aortic procedures include:

  • Replacement of the aortic root
  • Reconstruction of the aortic arch
  • Replacement of all or part of the thoracic aorta

Emergency Aortic Surgery

Emergent surgery seeks to prevent life threatening complications of aortic disorders that present suddenly without warning. Emergency thoracic aorta surgeries include:

  • Repair of aortic dissection (layers of aorta wall have begun to separate)
  • Replacement of the aortic in acute valve incompetence (aortic valve stops working, allowing blood to flow back into the heart instead of the body)
  • Repair of traumatic aortic transection (aorta is torn open in accident or injury)
  • Replacement of a ruptured aneurysm

Innovative aortic surgical treatments

In addition to traditional surgery to replace the damaged or diseased aorta, aortic valve sparing operations and aortic stent grafting procedures are performed by OHSU’s heart surgeons. We are continually evaluating and adopting new ways to lower the risk of aortic surgery complications.

Expert integrated aortic care teams

OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute specializes in the most advanced and innovative surgical treatment for patients with disorders of the thoracic aorta. We use a team approach of experienced specialists for the rapid, comprehensive care of patients with these complex aortic disorders. Our Thoracic Aorta Program brings together physicians from the Section of Adult Cardiac Surgery with doctors from OHSU’s Department of Radiology and Division of Vascular Surgery.

A regional leader in clinical trial participation

OHSU is the only medical center on the West coast selected to participate in a National Institutes of Health-sponsored network for the study of patients with Marfan syndrome and other genetically transmitted aortic conditions.

For more information about our aortic clinical trials or to schedule as appointment with our cardiac specialists, please call 503-494-7820.

The Aortic Program at OHSU is a regional resource to help manage aortic conditions such as aortic dissections and aortic aneurysms. Learn more about our aortic team and treatment options.

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