Thoracic Aorta Dissection

An aortic dissection is a tear in the wall of the aorta. It can be very painful and is extremely dangerous. The tear can block blood flow from the aorta tot he brain or other vital organs.  This is more common in people with high blood pressure and people who smoke.

How do we diagnose a Thoracic Aorta Dissection?

Echocardiography is a vascular ultrasound of the heart and beginning part of the thoracic aorta.  Sometimes it can be used to see an aortic dissection but most of the aorta in the chest cannot be seen with ultrasound.

Magnetic Resonance (MR):
MR and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) are more accurate tests to detect and measure thoracic dissections.  MRA is used less often because of cost but is more accurate and uses no radiation.  MRA may be the most accurate way to see if dissection is leaking or unstable.

Computed Tomography (CT):
CT and computed tomography angiography (CTA) are the most accurate tests to detect and measure aortic dissections.  A non-contrast set of images may be needed to detect a blood leak but a contrast-enhanced CTA will most accurately show the extent of the tear in the aorta and if it blocks any branch arteries. Once detected the best way to measure the aneurysm and look for changes is a CTA exam