Aortic Aneurysm Diagnosis
To diagnose an aortic aneurysm, your healthcare provider will do a physical exam and an imaging test. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is diagnosed when your abdominal aorta is three centimeters or greater in diameter. The normal diameter of the thoracic aorta depends on your age, your sex, and which part of the thoracic aorta is measured.
During a physical exam, your provider may do a few basic steps to look for an aortic aneurysm.
- Feel your stomach area.
- Listen to your heart for a heart murmur, softer heart sounds, or other changes in your blood flow that could be a sign of an aneurysm.
- Check your pulse in your arms and legs to see whether it feels weaker than normal.
- Look for symptoms of medical conditions that are risk factors for an aortic aneurysm, such as Marfan or Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. This may include looking at your skin, muscles and bones, eyes, head and face, and heart.
Screening and diagnostic tests
Screening for aortic aneurysm is usually done using ultrasound. This test shows if the diameter of your aorta is bigger than it should be. If it is larger than normal, your provider may recommend another screening later to check for growth.
To make the diagnosis your provider may order some tests.
- Ultrasound provides information about the size of the abdominal aortic aneurysm and monitors the aorta over time. If you have abdominal or back pain, an ultrasound can check for an abdominal aortic aneurysm or other possible causes of your pain. Once an aortic aneurysm is seen or suspected on ultrasound, you may have a CT scan or an MRI to provide more details about the shape or location of the aneurysm.
- Echocardiography provides information about the size of the aortic aneurysm and about the thoracic aorta, which is close to heart. Other parts of the thoracic aorta are better seen with other imaging studies such as CT or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- MRI provides information about the size, shape, and location of the aneurysm.
Who should be screened for a thoracic aortic aneurysm?
Certain groups of people may be screened for a thoracic aortic aneurysm. They include:
- People who have Marfan, Loeys–Dietz, Ehlers–Danlos, or Turner syndrome
- Parents, children, and siblings (first-degree relatives) of people who have a thoracic aortic aneurysm or a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV)-associated thoracic aortic aneurysm
Who should be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
There are certain groups of people who may be screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm:
- Men 65 to 75 years old who have ever smoked or who have a first-degree relative with the condition
- Men 65 to 75 years old who never smoked but have other risk factors, such as a family history, other vascular aneurysms, or coronary heart disease
- Men and women more than 75 years old who are in good health, who have ever smoked, or who have a first-degree relative with the condition
- People who have peripheral artery disease, regardless of age, sex, smoking history, or family history