Traumatic Aortic Injury

Find your care

Our specialists are experts in treating aortic disease. To learn more about our services, call 310-206-6294.

When the aorta is punctured, torn or bruised it is called traumatic aortic injury. This type of injury most often occurs as a result of a gunshot or knife wound or as a result of motor vehicle accident. It is a life-threatening medical condition and requires emergency medical care.

The UCLA Aortic Center: The Best Emergency Care for Traumatic Aortic Injury

UCLA is home to the region’s leading experts for diagnosis and treatment of aortic injury. Our level 1 Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center is well equipped to handle this type of critical injury due to our specially trained emergency staff and advanced imaging technologies. Our cardiac and vascular surgeons provide the highest level of surgical repair for aortic injury, including the latest minimally invasive approaches.  

We offer:

  • Modern facilities: A Level 1 Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center equipped with advanced imaging technology
  • Emergency care: Surgeons on-call 24/7 for evaluating and treating traumatic aortic injury
  • Advanced Treatments: The latest treatment options for repairing traumatic aortic injury including emergency endovascular repair

Learn more:

Causes of Traumatic Aortic Injury

A traumatic aortic injury is caused when the aorta is damaged or ruptured due to penetrating or blunt force to the artery. These types of injuries can range from minor bruises or tears to critical loss of blood due to aortic rupture.

  • Penetrating Trauma.  Penetrating trauma happens when the aorta is directly punctured or cut. These injuries often cause extensive bleeding. Sometimes the surrounding tissues of the aorta can contain bleeding, allowing patients to survive long enough to reach medical attention.  
  • Blunt Trauma.  Blunt trauma most often occurs from motor vehicle accidents, but can also be seen in patients who fall from a significant height.  In blunt trauma, the aorta often tears, generally at a specific point in the upper chest.

Symptoms of Traumatic Aortic Injury

The most common symptom in patients with aortic injury is low blood pressure from loss of blood due to an aortic tear or rupture. Other symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Pain at the site of injury
  • Shock

Expert Diagnosis of Traumatic Aortic Injury at UCLA

Diagnostic imaging is used to determine the extent of traumatic aortic injuries. Types of imaging include:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CTA (computed tomography angiography)
  • Contrast angiography

Learn more about types of imaging tests.

Advanced Treatment of Traumatic Aortic Injury at UCLA

Our surgeons are on call around the clock to swiftly treat patients with critical injuries. Even very minor aortic injuries can now be detected due to advancements in imaging technology. Minor injuries may be able to be managed without intervention but involve close medical monitoring by a doctor to assure that the injury does not worsen.

Most traumatic aortic injuries will require emergency repair. Suturing the injury or patching the injury with prosthetic material can sometimes repair small aortic tears or cuts. Open surgery to replace a portion of the aorta with a synthetic graft may be necessary to treat larger injuries. Most traumatic aortic injuries can now be treated with less invasive endovascular techniques.

UCLA surgeons were among the first in the Los Angeles area to use endovascular repair for traumatic aortic injury, which is an option even to patients who are unstable and are not candidates for surgical repair.

Learn more: