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Thoracic aortic aneurysm presenting with dysphagia: a fatal delay in diagnosis

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Extrinsic oesophageal compression leading to dysphagia is a recognised but uncommon sole presentation of thoracic aortic aneurysms. This has been referred to as Dysphagia Aortica, and is a late presentation of large thoracic aneurysms, or a symptom of impending aorto-oesophageal fistula. We present the case of a 67 year old woman who presented repeatedly with dysphagia and weight loss over a 3 month period to specialists in three different disciplines. Eventually, a type II thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysm causing extrinsic compression of the oesophagus was discovered. When dealing with patients who present with dysphagia, if no other cause is discovered, a thoracic aortic aneurysm should form part of the differential diagnosis, as this is potentially curable, and delays in diagnosis and treatment predispose to rupture and death.


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