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It's Topic Tuesday

Good Morning everyone, and welcome back to another day of Topic Tuesday.

Today we will be going over the anatomy of the aortic arch.

The great arch, also known as the aortic arch, is like a bridge that carries blood from the heart to different parts of the body, including the head and shoulders. It's a curved tube that starts from the heart and goes up into the chest.

Now, imagine this bridge has three main exits, which are like roads carrying blood to different places:

  • Brachiocephalic Trunk (Innominate Artery): This is the first exit on the right side of the bridge. It quickly splits into two roads:

  • Right Subclavian Artery: This road goes under the collarbone (clavicle) and supplies blood to the right shoulder and arm.

  • Right Common Carotid Artery: This road goes up the neck, giving blood to the right side of the head and neck.

  • Left Common Carotid Artery: This is the second exit on the bridge. It goes straight up the neck, giving blood to the left side of the head and neck.

  • Left Subclavian Artery: This is the last exit on the left side of the bridge. It goes under the collarbone like its right counterpart, supplying blood to the left shoulder and arm.

Below is an image of the aortic arch anatomy:

Source: wikipedia


Now, imagine if there's a problem with this bridge, like a weak spot that bulges out. This is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm. It's like a bubble on the bridge that can get bigger over time.

If this bubble grows too big, it can press on the roads (arteries) that come out of the bridge, like the ones going to the head and shoulders. This pressure can block or slow down the flow of blood to these areas.

For example:

  • If the aneurysm grows big enough, it can press on the arteries that go to the head, causing symptoms like dizziness, headaches, or vision problems.

  • Similarly, if it presses on the arteries going to the shoulders, it can cause pain or weakness in the arms.

In other terms, a thoracic aortic aneurysm is like a bubble on the blood highway that can interfere with the flow of blood to the head and shoulders, potentially causing problems like pain, weakness, or other symptoms in those areas. This is a common issue that if symptomatic or if growing at a fast rate/large size, would be a reason for surgery.

Of course, we recommend that if you have a family history of aortic aneurysms or connective tissue disease that are high risk for aneurysms, we recommend that you reach out to your cardiologist and/or cardiac surgeon for surveillance.

And that is all that we have for you today. Thanks for tuning in and we hope you found this to be helpful. Until next time.

Take care and stay healthy.



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