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A - Accurate Diagnostic Testing

Accurate testing is critical in order to understand the condition of the

chambers of the heart, the heart valves, and the aorta. Depending on

the risk factors involved, the blood vessels of the head and neck may

also be examined.

The emphasis must be on accuracy, both in the quality of the tests and

in their interpretation.

It is important to have tests interpreted by experienced aortic treatment


These tests are extremely important both for you and your physicians.

They are the basis for aortic disease diagnosis and treatment.


An echocardiogram is often the first test used to screen for aortic


When done through the chest wall, (transthoracic echo), it is non-


Sound waves are used. There is no exposure to radiation of any kind,

and no contrast is needed.

This test generally:

shows how well the heart valves are working.

shows how well the chambers of the heart are functioning.

may show the size of the aortic root and ascending aorta.

does not show the entire aorta.

does not always detect a bicuspid aortic valve.

is highly dependent on how it is done and how it is interpreted.

Spiral CT with Intravenous Contrast

 The majority of centers now use spiral CT with intravenous (IV)


• This test uses x-rays to produce an accurate view of the entire aorta.

• It is quick and generally available at most medical centers.

CT scans without IV contrast cannot detect aortic dissection.

The intravenous contrast needed may affect the kidneys.

This test is not technician dependent, but should be interpreted by an

aortic specialist.

MRI and MRA with Intravenous Contrast

This test, using a magnetic field, also gives an accurate view of the

entire aorta.

There is no x-ray exposure. Exposure to contrast may not be needed -

this can be discussed with the physicians. 

MRI technology has continued to progress. However, only the more

advanced centers can produce high quality images of the aorta as well

as the heart and heart valves. This has improved the ability to identify

bicuspid aortic valves.

MRI tests take longer than CT scans and are not as practical in an

emergency situation.

How can you be sure you have an accurate

measurement of your aorta?

Experience has shown that when tests are interpreted by an aortic

center, there is increased accuracy in diagnosis. 

If you cannot travel for a consultation in person, you can send test

results to an experienced aortic center for analysis.

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