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Tortuous aorta

Tortuous aorta

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

The aorta is the main artery of the body that exits the heart and delivers blood to every organ of our body. A tortuous aorta is a twisting or distortion of the aorta that brings on the narrowing or constriction of that vessel, which can cause blood flow to be blocked. This condition, although not immediately life-threatening, can lead to high blood pressure, aortic insufficiency, or premature atherosclerosis. A tortuous aorta is common in the elderly, but can also happen to younger people who experience

Sometimes the area in aorta gets blocked automatically due to certain obstructions. Such a problem is known as tortuous aorta. The most common reason is the distortion in shape of the aorta due to the twist or even kink in the pathway. In such cases, the distortion or the blockage limits the supply of blood to the body due to which the body organs cannot function properly. Loss of circulation and high blood pressure are the common problems associated with tortuous aorta.Tortuous aorta

Some people have a tortuous aorta and experience no ill health effects as a result of their slightly unusual anatomy, while others can experience complications. This condition can be diagnosed with the use of medical imaging studies which reveal the structure of the aorta and other blood vessels in the body. Such studies may be performed for unrelated reasons, or because a doctor suspects that a patient has an aorta abnormality.

Having a tortuous aorta is not necessarily a cause for concern, but patients should make sure that it is noted in their medical charts because it may become relevant during treatment. In addition, surgeons usually like to know ahead of time about unusual anatomical features in their patients, and forewarning about an abnormal aorta is a good idea. The surgeon or surgical team may want to take special steps to protect the health of the patient.


High blood pressure is the common problem associated with tortuous aorta as the blood flow is interrupted and restricted. When the condition worsens atherosclerosis can affect the person. In such circumstances, the plaque forms lining inside the blood vessels due to which blood supply becomes limited. In grave conditions the esophagus too gets altered. Due to the twisting or distortion in the aorta, the esophagus gets pressurized due to which it evokes strong pain.Shortness of breath and chest pains may also present due to the physical changes in the spine or chest wall. Muscle fatigue and blockages in the blood flow due to the narrowing of the aorta passages can also be observed.

Cardiovascular disease risk test

Cardiovascular disease risk test


If your physician suspects a tortuous aorta, he/she will have imaging tests done to examine the structure of the heart and blood vessels surrounding it. This will provide further information on the severity of the condition and give direction to possible treatment options. How dangerous is a tortuous aorta is a question that can be answered on an individual basis at this point. If evidence of damage is discovered, such as hardening of the artery, action will have to be taken to lessen the risk of serious complications. The answer to how dangerous is a tortuous aorta may be “not very” in circumstances where the condition has caused no additional issues within the cardiovascular system. Often, these low-risk cases are discovered by pure chance, during testing for other diseases or conditions. If there are symptoms present, it is more likely that the tortuous aorta is dangerous in that case. If a case of tortuous aorta is dangerous, your physician may recommend surgery to correct the abnormality.


Many treatments are available in the medicinal world to combat the problem of tortuous aorta: This may include:

  • Bypass graft repair. This technique involves bypassing the narrowed area by inserting a plastic tube called a graft between the portions of the aorta.
  • Resection with end-to-end anastomosis. This method involves removing the narrowed segment of the aorta (resection) followed by connecting the two ends of the aorta together (anastomosis).
  • Balloon angioplasty: Instead of surgery, sometimes balloon angioplasty is preferred although over the years its efficiency has been under question. In this procedure, the doctor puts in a catheter inside the aorta and through it places a small balloon inside it. Now when this balloon is placed well at the position of distortion, it is inflated so that the artery gets widened. So as to hold the artery in the same open position, a stent is placed.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

43 thoughts on “Tortuous aorta”

  1. Thank you. Newly dx by echo bubble post stroke while being treated for GBM , brain. M..D has not told me. Saw report. Test during not seeing him until Nov 29. More troubles with leg pain and ice cold. Pulses seem ok. Retired RN. Know good specist in tis field. Watching foods that I eat. In remission. Just miss my walks. Slowed down since strike. Thank you for thiss site.

      1. My mother (93) was just told she has a tortuous aorta, found when she developed HTN. She also, just a month ago had what they called a stroke brought on by coughing. It only affected the occipital lobe and her vision. Within a month she regained more than 80% of her vision and they said they expect a full recovery. No one has mentioned what role the HTN may have played. It actually wasn’t found until after the stroke when we saw the neurologist. She is short of breath on exertion, only walks around the house. Is it worth pursuing any treatment or is it not worth the risk at her age?

        1. What kind if treatment do you mean? Surgery? Probably surgical interventions at her age would be considered too risky. However, she should receive antihypertensive treatment and probably diuretics to manage her hypertension and heart failure. She must be examined by a cardiologist in order to fund the best treatment option for her and follow up the results.

      1. I’m 60 & was just told I have tortuous aorta. I also have a leaky valve in my heart. This was found when doing an xray of my chest for COPD. What does this mean for me? They want to do a ct scan next.

        1. Surgery is the only way to repair aorta tortuosity. Otherwise, only symptomatic treatment with certain antihypertensive, antianginal and lipid-lowering agents may be proposed in order to provide symptomatic relief.

  2. I found out I had a tortuous aorta after an X-ray for an unassociated condition, almost a year ago. I was put on statins, blood pressure tablets and an aspirin a day. I have felt very tired, always have cold hands and feet, and now I have chest pain on my right side (more a throbbing pain) and I find myself breathless often and also seem to stop breathing for a few seconds while I am asleep, which wakes me with much alarm as I feel my heart has stopped.

    1. Your breathless and heart stopping feeling when you wake is most likely from sleep apnea of one form of another. Get to a sleep doctor and get a sleep study done. Having sleep apnea is dangerous and I’m guessing adding that to the tortuous aorta makes it more important to followup with a sleep doc and cardiologist. Good luck.

    2. Hey Lynne,

      Your symptoms seem very tell-tale of left sided heart failure, which is when the left ventricle in your heart has trouble pumping blood to the rest of your body. This causes fluid to build up in the lungs as the blood from the circulation in the lungs has trouble moving out into the heart, (since the left ventricle cannot push, it also cannot pull blood out of the lungs).
      This directly causes breathlessness and sleep apnea, because your body wakes you up so that you can breathe consciously as unconsciously your muscles have to work too hard.

      It’s important that you have a doctor takes a look at you, as a physical exam would yield a more accurate diagnosis. It’s really important that you get this checked out soon, because if you do have this condition, it is very likely to be detrimental if not controlled.

      Please go see a doctor as soon as you can!

      Hope everything turns out okay and you feel better soon! Best wishes!

      Medical Student
      CUNY School of Medicine

  3. I had an x-ray for pneumonia. They found i have a tortuous aorta which is also calcified. Earlier i had such chest pain it felt like a sliding hiatal hernia. Not sure what the best course i should take.

  4. I was diagnosed with a tortuous aorta a while ago. Recently been told I have a large clot in the right lung, put on blood thinners and it has been suggested there maybe heart damage.
    I was also born with Primary Immune Defeciency
    I have no energy, struggle to breath when I walk up stairs or if I go into my old pattern of walking faster just cannot do it . This changed in 3 days
    I went from fast walking to extreme lack of breath and weekness.
    .could the Tortuous aorta be responsible for this?..

    1. As tortuous aorta is a chronic condition it may gradually impair the heart function due to the blocked blood outflow, but it is unlikely to cause an acute heart dysfunction. So probably there must be another heart-related problem responsible for the symptoms you are experiencing. You should visit a doctor and be examined carefully.

  5. my mother have a tortuous aorta. that doctor found that in her x-ray result it is that a dangerous to her please answer my question . and what should be do for that

    1. High blood pressure is the most common complication of the tortuous aorta. Atherosclerosis is also associated with this condition. As the aorta is curved some internal organs or the lower limbs may suffer due to the reduced blood supply. Tortuous aorta may be managed surgically or with the help of balloon angioplasty, although if it causes no symptoms and is mild, it may be left untreated.

      1. I am male 43 years old..I have problem with cholesterol I take atorvastatin 10mg for a year now..x ray resul i have becoming tortous aorta..take note: becoming tortous aorta…is this still mild? can I stop this by Increasing dosage of my atorvastatin and reducing weight exercise and diet..without doing a surgery?

        1. The atorvastatin dose should be corrected according to your cholesterol levels in the blood, on the other hand liver function tests should also be performed as statins may increase you LFTs. Taking under control your cholesterol values, reducing weight and maintaining a healthy diet will help you to slow down the accumulation of cholesterol in the lining of the aorta and other major vessels.

  6. I just found out, through reading the results of a chest X-ray, that I have a tortuous aorta. Could the myectomy I had 15 years ago to correct left ventricular cardiomyopathy have caused it? No doctor has ever mentioned it to me but I am on BP meds.

    1. Tortuous aorta means that the aorta itself is distorted. The condition may be inborn or acquired due to high blood pressure or atherosclerosis. Myectomy is performed on the heart muscle known as the myocardium and this procedure can’t cause the changes of the aorta shape.

  7. I do have my yearly physical exam and this year’s result I am diagnosed with tortuous aorta. My blood pressure is not that stable,sometimes its high and normal and i have meds to maintain.I do daily exercises like zumba. I refrain eating pork to avoid high blood pressure. I don’t experience chest pains,i can sustain zumba for 3 hours & able to join the fun run. Is there oral medicines to cure this?is exercise not enough?please I need your advise..thank you

    1. Tortuous aorta is a structural abnormality which cannot be corrected by the medicines. Nevertheless, the condition requires medicinal treatment and preventive measures such as healthy diet and sports in order to avoid the development of other cardiovascular diseases which may worsen your health in relation to the abnormality you have.

  8. My mother (64 yrs old) found out that she has a tortuous aorta from her x-ray result, lately she suffer from back pain until now. Is there a cure for this? Any suggestion please

    1. Back pain is not related to the tortuous aorta. Consul with a neurologist or neurosurgeon regarding the back pain which can be and should be treated. Tortuous aorta is a structural abnormality of the aorta – it doesn’t require any specific treatment except the therapy for other related cardiovascular disorders.

    1. Tortous aorta is a structural abnormality which usually remains asymptomatic. However, this abnormality may contribute to other cardiovascular disorders like angina pectoris. The pain you describe is highly suggestive of angina pectoris – the condition caused by the narrowing of coronary arteries which supply the heart muscle. Visist your GP or cardiologist as soon as possible to assess your condition, make the diagnosis and initiate the appropriate treatment in order to control the disease and prevent possible complications. Nevertheless, other disorders like the gastroesophageal reflux disease or any lung disorders should be ruled out as they may have similar manifestation.

  9. My mom chest X-ray revealed a tortuous aorta, she is already on statins her cholesterol level before is elevated. Together with the chest X-ray result that the She has also a subsegmental atelectasis on mid and lower lobe of her rt. lung. My question is how serious her condition is? Please reply back thank you.

    1. Thank you for your comment. According to the information you provided your mother’s condition is serious as long as more than a half of one of her lungs is not working properly meaning that she doesn’t get enough oxygen and, therefore, her physical capacity is reduced. The main question here is what made her lung collapse. It is necessary to find the cause and treat the underlying disorder.

  10. I was diagnosed with a tortuous aorta, after being seen in the er with chest pains and shortness of breath. I also have been diagnosed with high blood pressure and polycythemia. My blood is really thick, I am on an asprin already, and get phlebotomies every 6 weeks. Is it possible that this aorta and it’s distortion was a result of my blood?

      1. I had a cardiac ablation for SVT in March. Symptoms of high heart rate, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain returned on August 1st. My EP believes it could be IST but is reluctant to do another ablation because they can’t pinpoint where my sinus node is misfiring. I just had an X-ray two days ago that showed increase in tortuosity of ascending aorta. Could this be the missing link to my diagnosis and symptoms? Thank you in advance!

        1. You should undergo further tests such as echocardiography and contrast CT scan to determine what is causing this tortuosity. Probably, such appearance of the aorta is rather another sign of your disorder that should be investigated further.

  11. I am 73 years old woman and was recently told that I have a tortuous aorta. Actually I saw this on a CT scan report. I was diagnosed with Bronchiectasis 2 years ago. I have been having a CT scan each year since then. This year when I met with my Pulmonary Doctor, he told me my lungs looked the same and he didn’t recommend any medication since I was feeling good and asymptomatic . When he asked if I had any questions, I said what is tortuous aorta. I saw that on the report. He said it meant the aorta was twisted. I asked if this was a problem and he said it wasn’t, just attributed it to aging. I am active and work full time and have no symptoms as I saw with others. Should I talk with a cardiologist?

    1. There are no cure options for tortuous aorta, the treatment is mainly symptomatic. In severe cases, it may require an aortic graft. Since you do not experience any symptoms there is currently no need for any treatment. You are still recommended to check with a cardiologist and monitor the size of the aorta and its tortuosity.

  12. I see on a recent chest x-ray that I have marked tortuosity of the thoracic aorta. Already on Verapamil 180 for blood pressure and A fib . Could my A fib be related to this aorta tortuosity? or just the blood pressure. I assume marked is more than mild but less than severe? Thank you

    1. Aorta tortuosity is related to your hypertension and is unlikely to be caused by atrial fibrillation. Yes, marked tortuosity means that the twisted part of the aorta is prominent.

  13. I just found out I have torturous aorta from xray. I already have heart disease and high cholesterol. Xray was done because of copd complications. Should I call my cardiologist for appointment or just wait until next year when I see him again

    1. Tortuous aorta is not an acute disease but a chronic condition. In some cases it is impossible to distinguish aortic tortuosity from other conditions that affect aorta and additional investigations may be needed. It is of course better to consult with your treating physician if this finding requires any further investigations or treatment adjustments in your case.

  14. results of recent chest x-ray for pulmonologist shows tortuous aorta with calcification. If surgery should be needed will this be a problem since i had triple bypass surgery 16 months ago?

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