Computed tomography (CT scan) CT is a fast non-invasive test that will give an accurate 3 dimensional view of the aorta. The images are produced by taking rapid thin cut slices of the chest and abdomen and combining thect chest scanm in the computer to create cross-sectional slices. In order to outline the aorta, an iodinated (radiographic dye) contrast is injected into a vein. Once the contrast in injected, the scan is performed and captures the contrast entering the aorta. The scan then follows the contrast (dye) as it flows through the vessel. Images of the aorta demonstrate dissection with associated measurements, as well as where the primary tear has occurred.
The images obtained can demonstrate the size and extent of disease, presence of a hematoma or plaque and calcification of the aortic walls. This test provides useful information for the cardiac surgeon in regards to the size of replacement graft if surgery is necessary. The CT scan has a high sensitivity in assessment of aortic dissection but the disadvantage may be that the patient is unable to have the contrast due to allergies or kidney dysfunction which precludes administration of the contrast.