Aortic Disease

Find aortic specialists at UNC Medical Center, a leading academic medical center in the Southeast, offering comprehensive, minimally invasive complex aortic disease treatment. This means you’ll have access to advanced techniques not offered at many other hospitals.

What Is Aortic Disease?

Your heart pumps blood out of the aorta–the largest artery–to the rest of your body via the smaller arteries that branch out from it. If a heart condition or disease affects your aorta, the tissue inside its walls can tear (dissection) or enlarge (aneurysm) and cause a rupture.

Comprehensive Care

Trust UNC Medical Center’s expert cardiothoracic and vascular surgery aortic specialists to accurately diagnose and treat aortic disease. The extensive care options available at UNC Medical Center assures you will receive personalized treatment for your condition. If needed, you also can get an open, hybrid or minimally invasive procedure.

Aortic Conditions We Treat

UNC Medical Center’s aortic specialists provide complete and comprehensive care for all types of aortic conditions, including:

  • Aortic aneurysms – a bulge in section of aorta. 
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) – Enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta
  • Aortic dissections – Tear or split in the inner lining of the aorta
  • Aortic transections and injuries – Tear or rupture of the aorta due to trauma
  • Aortoiliac occlusive disease – Blockage of the iliac arteries (aortic arteries that provide blood to your legs)
  • Mesenteric ischemia – Narrowing or blockage of the arteries that supply blood to your intestines
  • Thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms (TAAA) – Enlargement in the upper and lower part of the aorta
  • Thoracic aortic aneurysms – Enlarged area in the upper part of the aorta
  • Renal artery aneurysm - A dilated segment of the renal artery that exceeds twice the diameter of a normal renal artery.

Medical Management

UNC aortic specialists will first try to slow or halt the growth of your aneurysm with medicines to manage high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or other conditions that contribute to your risk of aneurysm rupture.

If you have additional health conditions, such as heart problems, our aortic specialists will work closely with cardiologists or other experts to help ensure you receive the best possible care for your needs.

Genetic Testing

Your doctor also may recommend genetic testing to find out if your condition is heritable.

Advanced Aortic Procedures & Treatment

If your situation gets worse, with concern for a rupture, your specialists may recommend repair of your aortic condition. A risk factor evaluation will help you and your doctor decide on the best treatment, including minimally invasive endovascular (inside a blood vessel) therapy, traditional open surgical repair or a hybrid approach.

You’ll benefit from our academic medical center’s commitment to continuous advancements in vascular surgery and procedures to treat aortic diseases. These extraordinary advances include endovascular techniques not available in other major medical centers. Our commitment translates into 95 percent of our aortic patients who need a procedure receiving minimally invasive techniques.

Treatment with minimally invasive procedures generally allow you to heal faster with less pain and to return home sooner.

Endovascular Stent Grafting for Aneurysms

Stent grafting is a newer, less invasive treatment at UNC Medical Center for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. It uses a stent, a fabric tube supported by a metal framework, to reinforce and protect your aneurysm from rupture. After catheter-delivered placement inside your aorta, the stent graft seals tightly, with your artery above and below the aneurysm allowing blood to flow through without pushing on it.

UNC Medical Center is one of only 10 institutions in the United States able to send out graft measurements and receive a prefabricated graft for your severe aortic conditions. Other medical centers in the region would perform an open surgery with a much longer recovery period.

UNC Medical Center uses fenestrated and branched stent grafting procedures for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair that allow a full range of treatment if you have a more complex aortic aneurysm, especially if your aneurysm involves areas where it branches off toward your kidneys and other organs.

Dedicated Staff

At UNC, you’ll find a 24/7 operating room staff dedicated to treating aortic disease. Aortic specialists work in collaboration with interventional radiology and anesthesiology to decide the best therapy for you. You’ll also work with blood disorder experts–often required for aortic surgery–as well as blood bank resources for your transfusion needs.

Emergency Transportation

UNC also offers around the clock transportation by ground or air, with two on-call helicopters for emergencies that involve aortic disease treatment.

Clinical Trials

UNC Medical Center’s aortic specialists lead the way in conducting clinical trials for the advancement of aortic treatments. Join the Conquest to learn more about participating in our research studies.

Aortic Aneurysm Screening

As part of the "Welcome to Medicare" physical at age 65, patients identified to be at risk may receive screening with an ultrasound examination to determine if an aneurysm is present. Patients eligible for a no-cost ultrasound include those with a familial history of aneurysms or men with a smoking history.  This screening is offered in the first ten years after one is enrolled in Medicare. Learn about your eligibility for free aortic aneurysm screening.

Contact Us

Call the Heart & Vascular Center referral line at 866-862-4327 to find vascular specialists, make an appointment or learn more about vascular care.

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