Thoracic Aorta Dissection

How do we diagnose a Thoracic Aorta Dissection?

Echocardiography is simply an 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.
For more information about vascular ultrasound please see

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

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 see if there is a slow leak and a contrast injection and CTA will most accurately show the extent of the tear in the aorta and its effect on the branch arteries coming off of the aorta.
For more information about CTA exams please see

How do we treat a Thoracic Aortic Dissection?

Aortic dissection treatment depends on where the dissection is and how stable it is.  If it involves the first part of the aorta in the chest usually surgery is needed to repair the artery.  If the dissection is mostly in the aorta after the branches to the brain it can often be treated with medications to reduce blood pressure.  In either case close monitoring is needed.