Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Detecting an aortic dissection can be tricky because the symptoms are similar to those of a variety of health problems. Doctors often suspect an aortic dissection if the following signs and symptoms are present:

  • Sudden tearing or ripping chest pain
  • Widening of the aorta on chest X-ray
  • Blood pressure difference between right and left arms

Although these signs and symptoms suggest aortic dissection, more-sensitive imaging techniques are usually needed. Frequently used imaging procedures include:

  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). This test uses high-pitched sound waves to produce an image of the heart. A TEE is a special type of echocardiogram in which an ultrasound probe is inserted through the esophagus. The ultrasound probe is placed close to the heart and the aorta, providing a clearer picture of your heart than would a regular echocardiogram.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. CT scanning generates X-rays to produce cross-sectional images of the body. A CT of the chest is used to diagnose an aortic dissection, possibly with an injected contrast liquid. Contrast makes the heart, aorta and other blood vessels more visible on the CT pictures.
  • Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA). An MRI uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of the body. An MRA uses this technique to look at blood vessels.
Oct. 28, 2014