Aortic aneurysms are lethal. Every year more than 15,000 people in the United States die when an aneurysm in the chest or abdomen bursts or dissects - more people than die from AIDS. Albert Einstein, Olympic volleyball champion Flo Hyman, Florida State University basketball player Roland Pierce, Broadway composer of “Rent” Jonathan Larson, and actors Lucille Ball, George C. Scott and John Ritter were all killed by thoracic aortic aneurysms.
Aortic aneurysms are insidious because they are silent stalkers. Ruptures usually kill instantly. The vessel can balloon without causing pain. Most people discover their aneurysms while being tested for something else: a doctor may spot the telltale bulge while performing an ultrasound to investigate a heart murmur or a CT scan to evaluate a chronic cough, for example.
The Yale Center for Thoracic Aortic Disease is one of the first and and one of the largest centers in the world for clinical care of patients with aneurysms. It is also one of the most active centers for basic science and clinical research in aortic diseases.