What is Inflammation of the Aorta?
Aorta is one large and thick artery which plays an important role in circulating fresh blood uninterruptedly from heart to limbs and organs in proper pace. The elasticity of the aorta helps to carry blood, for its efficient functioning. While inflammation can occur anywhere in body, the aorta too can sometimes get inflamed, and when this happens it is known as aortitis. There are various causes of inflammation of the aorta and it is important to know the symptoms and treatment of it.
What Causes Inflammation of the Aorta?
Inflammation of aorta can be caused due to various reasons like infection together with a condition identified as Takayasu’s arteritis and giant cell arteritis.
Some of the common causes of inflammation of the aorta include:
- Infection – There are number of organisms which are likely to cause infection of the aorta and lead to inflammation of the aorta. In most cases, bacterial infection in the adjacent tissues can move towards the aorta through the blood stream. Syphilis, salmonella, staphylococcal and streptococcal infections are known to spread bacteria, attack the immune system and injure aorta, which can cause inflammation of the aorta.
- Connective Tissue Disorders: When there are some connective tissue diseases, inflammation of the aorta can be seen. These are auto immune diseases, where the immune system attacks its own tissues resulting in an inflammatory condition. Connective tissue disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Takayasu disease, they are largely responsible to generate inflammation of the aorta.
Some other conditions like the HLA-B27–associated spondyloarthropathies, Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody–associated vasculitides, Behçet’s disease, Cogan syndrome and Sarcoidosis, too can sometimes cause inflammation of the aorta.
- Injuries to the Aorta – In some cases, the aorta may get injured due to trauma to the nearby structures or directly to the aorta during traumatic injuries or surgeries. Such injuries can cause inflammation of the aorta.
What are the Symptoms of Inflammation of Aorta?
Symptoms of inflammation of the aorta largely depend on the underlying cause of the condition. The location and severity of the inflammation too plays an important role in presenting the symptoms of aortitis.
- There are few symptoms like abdominal pain, pelvic and back pain, which are seen when the aortic valve is not closing suitably thus causing a back flow.
- When thoracic aortic aneurysm is caused by underlying rheumatic condition, patients may experience symptoms like headaches, loss of vision, fever, fatigue, difficulty with balance and pain in the jaw or tongue muscles when eating or talking with inflammation of the aorta.
- Some common symptoms of inflammation of the aorta also include dizziness, tenderness of the scalp over the temples, unexplained weight loss, double vision, difficulty with coordination, joint pain and headaches. Other symptoms of inflammation of the aorta include like malaise, loss of appetite, night sweats, fainting, blurred vision etc.
- When inflammation of the aorta is caused due to an infection, it often shows signs and symptoms of an infection. Such symptoms may include fever, headache and changes in blood cell count.
- High blood pressure can occur when the walls of the aorta fail to maintain its elasticity and the passage turns narrower. The identical condition may occur when the relevant branches of aorta are highly inflamed as a result of renal artery inflammation. When the aorta is inflamed, abnormality in pulse can be noted.
- When blood flows abnormally through the aorta branches, there would be bruit, which is an abnormal sound and such sound is traceable in subclavian artery and in abdominal aorta.
- In worst cases, it is seen that patients may experience conditions like heart failure, stroke and renal dysfunction.
Treatments of Inflammation of the Aorta
Proper treatment for inflammation of the aorta can be initiated once the underlying cause is known and the condition is properly diagnosed. Depending on the history and findings, physical examination an appropriate investigation and treatment plan is chalked out.
- It is important to diagnose giant cell arteritis or GCA, for which biopsy may be ordered, if appropriate. In order to find out Takayasu’s arteritis, blood pressure rate is examined, especially of the arteries arising out of the aorta. However when Takayasu’s arteritis occur blood pressure will certainly be low, one will come across brisk pulses in the legs.
- In such situation imaging tests are performed along with magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), positron emission tomography (PET) and Doppler ultrasound. Such tests will be highlighting the problem areas. To find out the infection and underlying condition, blood test is done.
Treatment of inflammation of the aorta should be initiated as early as possible, or else the situation may lead to life threatening condition. Treatment is meant to prevent further progress of aortitis and prevent complications.
When inflammation of the aorta is caused due to an infection, prompt treatment must be initiated to prevent further damage. The treatment for inflammation of the aorta due to infection includes broad range of antibiotics, mostly intravenously.
If aneurysms are the cause of inflammation of the aorta, surgical correction may be required to remove the damaged tissue.
When there is GCA or Takayasu’s arteritis is caused, the condition worsens fast and so the treatment aims at controlling the symptoms to protect the tissues from further damage. An important treatment for inflammation of the aorta includes administration of corticosteroids for some time. Later surgery may be required, but surgery is not done immediately rather when damage is too severe.
To alleviate the constitutional symptoms, steroids are generally given. Treatment of inflammation of the aorta, in some cases may require immune suppressant drugs and treatment of hypertension.
Usually medical treatment is started when patients are unlikely to put up with the stress of surgery. Patients who are suffering from early lesions are given medicine, as surgery is deemed extremely dangerous. To treat the late complications, surgeries are performed when the complications reach a risky level. When renal arteries behave abnormally, then bypass of obstructed arteries take place. In some cases, angioplasty may be considered, if appropriate to widen the vessels.
- American Heart Association – Aortitis: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/aortitis
- Cleveland Clinic – Aortitis: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16843-aortitis
- National Organization for Rare Disorders – Aortitis: https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/aortitis/
- Mayo Clinic – Giant Cell Arteritis: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/giant-cell-arteritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20372758
- American College of Rheumatology – Takayasu Arteritis: https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Takayasu-Arteritis