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:
Oct. 28, 2014
- 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.
- Manning WJ. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of aortic dissection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 8, 2014.
- Manning WJ. Management of aortic dissection. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 8, 2014.
- AskMayoExpert. Thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- JCS Joint Working Group. Guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection. Circulation Journal. 2013;77:789.
- Prevention: What you can do. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/what_you_can_do.htm. Accessed Sept. 8, 2014.