The aorta is the biggest artery in our body. It originates from the heart, makes a U-turn in the upper chest and ends around the umbilical area, with branches of artery supplying the whole body. Therefore, conditions that affect the aorta may affect the blood supply to certain organs, depending on which part of the aorta is involved.
Disease in the aorta can cause narrowing or, more commonly, abnormal dilatation of the artery. But the most dreaded disease that affects the aorta is aortic dissection, which is potentially life threatening. This is caused by disruption of the aorta wall, which allows blood to flow between the layers of the blood vessel wall. The origins of major branches from the aorta at the site of the dissection may be affected, thus compromising blood flow to the respective major organs. Death, heart attack or stroke may ensue if arteries to the heart or brain are affected.
This condition is usually associated with high blood pressure or conditions that weaken the wall of the blood vessel (e.g.
Marfan’s syndrome). Rarely, it can also happen during pregnancy in normal women.
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