The aorta is the largest artery of the body. It receives oxygen-rich blood from the heart and distributes it to the body through smaller arteries that branch off of it.
Aortitis is caused by
Systemic rheumatic diseases, such as Takayasu arteritis Takayasu Arteritis Takayasu arteritis causes chronic blood vessel inflammation, mainly of the aorta (the artery that connects directly with the heart), the arteries that branch off from it, and the pulmonary arteries... read more , giant cell arteritis Giant Cell Arteritis Giant cell arteritis is chronic inflammation of large and medium arteries of the head, neck, and upper body. Typically affected are the temporal arteries, which run through the temples and provide... read more , ankylosing spondylitis Ankylosing Spondylitis Ankylosing spondylitis is a spondyloarthritis characterized by inflammation of the spine (spondylitis), large joints, and fingers and toes, resulting in stiffness and pain. Prolonged joint pain... read more , or relapsing polychondritis Relapsing Polychondritis Relapsing polychondritis is a rare autoimmune connective tissue disorder characterized by episodes of painful, destructive inflammation of the cartilage and other connective tissues in many... read more
Infections, such as bacterial endocarditis Infective Endocarditis Infective endocarditis is an infection of the lining of the heart (endocardium) and usually also of the heart valves. Infective endocarditis occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream and travel... read more , syphilis Syphilis Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It can occur in three stages of symptoms, separated by periods of apparent good health. Syphilis... read more , Rocky Mountain spotted fever Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a potentially fatal rickettsial infection that is transmitted by dog ticks and wood ticks. It causes a rash, headache, and high fever. People become infected... read more , or fungal infections
Cogan syndrome Cogan Syndrome Cogan syndrome is a rare autoimmune disease that can affect the cornea. Eye pain, decreased vision, increased sensitivity to bright light, and redness of the eye are common symptoms. Diagnosis... read more (inflammation of the cornea of the eye, hearing and balance problems, and inflammation of the aorta)
Inflammation usually involves all layers of the aorta and may lead to blockage of the aorta or its branches or weakening of the arterial wall, resulting in aneurysms.
The inflammation sometimes causes an aneurysm Aortic Aneurysms The aorta, which is about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter, is the largest artery of the body. It receives oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle of the heart and distributes it to all... read more or blockage (occlusion) of the aorta.
Symptoms vary according to the cause and the site of aortitis and can range from back or abdominal pain with fever to severe shortness of breath and swelling of the legs (often from heart failure Heart Failure (HF) Heart failure is a disorder in which the heart is unable to keep up with the demands of the body, leading to reduced blood flow, back-up (congestion) of blood in the veins and lungs, and/or... read more ) if the aortitis affects the aortic valve of the heart. Some people experience aortic dissection Aortic Dissection An aortic dissection is an often fatal disorder in which the inner layer (lining) of the aortic wall tears and separates from the middle layer of the aortic wall. Most aortic dissections occur... read more or rupture, which can be fatal.
Diagnosis is made by imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) angiography CT angiography Computed tomography (CT) is a type of medical imaging that combines a series of x-rays to create cross-sectional, detailed images of internal structures. In computed tomography (CT), which used... read more , magnetic resonance angiography Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Heart Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of medical imaging that uses a strong magnetic field and very high frequency radio waves to produce highly detailed images, including of the heart... read more , or ultrasonography Ultrasonography Ultrasonography is a type of medical imaging that uses high-frequency sound (ultrasound) waves to produce images of internal organs and other tissues. During an ultrasound, a device called a... read more , showing swollen and thickened areas of the aorta.
Blood tests that show increased levels of inflammation in the body (elevated C-reactive protein level, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate) can support a diagnosis of aortitis.
Treatment differs depending on the cause of the inflammation, for example, antibiotics are given if infection is the cause or anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive medications are given if a systemic rheumatic disease is the cause (for example, giant cell arteritis Giant Cell Arteritis Giant cell arteritis is chronic inflammation of large and medium arteries of the head, neck, and upper body. Typically affected are the temporal arteries, which run through the temples and provide... read more ).
If the aortitis has caused irreversible damage, open surgery to put in a bypass graft or placement of a stent graft through an artery may be necessary.