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Sashini Iddawela, Andrew Ravendren, and Amer Harky

The pathophysiology of thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection is poorly understood, despite high mortality. An evidence review was conducted to examine the biomechanical, chemical and genetic factors involved in thoracic aortic pathology. The composition of connective tissue and smooth muscle cells can mediate important mechanical properties that allow the thoracic aorta to withstand and transmit pressures. Genetic syndromes can affect connective tissue and signalling proteins that interrupt smooth muscle function, leading to tissue failure. There are complex interplaying factors that maintain thoracic aortic function in health and are disrupted in disease, signifying an area for extensive research.

Open access

Amer Harky, Ka Siu Fan, and Ka Hay Fan

Thoracic aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections (TAAD) are highly fatal emergencies within cardiothoracic surgery. With increasing age, thoracic aneurysms become more prevalent and pose an even greater threat when they develop into aortic dissections. Both diseases are multifactorial and are influenced by a multitude of physiological and biomechanical processes. Structural stability of aorta can be disrupted by genes, such as those for extracellular matrix and contractile protein, as well as telomere dysfunction, which leads to senescence of smooth muscle and endothelial cells. Biomechanical changes such as increased luminal pressure imposed by hypertension are also very prevalent and lead to structural instability. Furthermore, ageing is associated with a pro-inflammatory state that exacerbates degeneration of vessel wall, facilitating the development of both aortic aneurysms and aortic dissection. This literature review provides an overview of the aetiology and pathophysiology of both thoracic aneurysms and aortic dissections. With an improved understanding, new therapeutic targets may eventually be identified to facilitate treatment and prevention of these diseases.