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Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
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The aortic programme

The aortic programme at Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust manages patients with diseases of the thoracic aorta.

The Trust offers one of the largest aortic programmes, seeing around 90 patients with aneurysms (abnormal swellings) and dissections (tears) coming from across the UK each year. These are the main diseases affecting the thoracic aorta.

Based on a Swedish study from 2006, which looked at 14,000 patients, the prevalence of aneurysms and dissections is around 12 per 100,000 people per year. This figure is growing steadily, largely due to improved rates of diagnosis.

About the progamme

The main purpose of the programme is to manage patients with thoracic aortic diseases. The aortic team undertakes approximately 70 operations annually to repair aneurysms and treat dissections. Our surgical team is part of a collaborative emergency service to treat patients suffering acute aortic dissection, which, although rare, can be fatal if the tear in the aorta is not repaired quickly.

In addition, we treat patients who present with combined cardiac and thoraco-abdominal vascular diseases. For example, someone with a long-term chronic cardiac condition, such as pulmonary hypertension or heart failure, who develops an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

We also treat cardiac (and thoracic) interventional inpatients who develop vascular complications pre- or post-operatively, such as compartment syndrome (where bleeding or swelling occurs within a section or compartment of muscle), at both Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals.

Other conditions associated with the thoracic aorta are:

  • intra-mural haematoma
  • penetrating ulcer
  • anomalous aortic arch
  • complications in adulthood of congenital abnormalities of the great vessels
  • trauma, usually blunt and caused by road traffic accidents.

Like many services in the Trust, there is close collaboration with other teams and departments. Most significantly in this instance, with the adult congenital heart disease team, led by Dr Michael Gatzoulis, which is the largest unit of its kind in the UK. A significant number of patients born with a cono-truncal abnormality of the heart and great vessels, who underwent surgery as children, will develop an enlarged aorta in young adult life.



The aortic team at the Trust is actively involved in research in conjunction with the genetics and genomics laboratory and has strong links with the aortic programme at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital through the Institute of Cardiovascular Medicine and Science.

The aortic theme seeks to promote clinical research, innovation, postgraduate education and service development between the two trusts.

Royal Brompton

Sydney Street,
London SW3 6NP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7352 8121


Learn more about aortic dissection

Nienaber, C. A. et al. Aortic dissection. Nat. Rev. Dis. Primers 2, 16053 (2016)