What occurs when the aorta of the heart is enlarged?

Written by steve johnson
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What occurs when the aorta of the heart is enlarged?
(John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The aorta is the largest artery in the body---allowing oxygen-rich blood to enter the heart. Any enlargement of the aorta can seriously jeopardise the entire body.


According to Dr. William Cohn of the Texas Heart Institute, an enlarged aorta is not normal. The increase in size may indicate degeneration of cells within the artery. Although genetics may play a role and the size of the aorta may vary from one person to another, an enlargement could be an indication of an aortic disorder.

Enlargement Process

According to the Gloucestershire Aneurysm Screening Committee, aortic enlargement is gradual with only a few-millimetre increase per year.


During enlargement, blood flows slowly because of a large gap in the artery that needs to be filled. This causes a direct negative effect upon the oxygen supply. As the artery walls weaken, high pressure blood that the aorta carries may rupture and cause massive amounts of bleeding—potentially causing death.


Once an aortic enlargement is diagnosed, it is important that it is kept under constant observation. Monitoring cholesterol intake is also a good precaution.


As the aortic tissue becomes more diseased, enlargement continues. Once the aortic diameter measures 4cm or greater, it is considered an aneurysm. If undiagnosed, aneurysms can eventually rupture, potentially resulting in death.

Aneurysm Types

Swelling or enlargement of the aorta can be classified into two types: fusiform and saccular. The first is the equal enlargement of the entire aorta, while the other is enlargement of only one half.

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