Early diagnosis and treatment of aortic dissection can save lives. The diagnostic process usually involves a physical exam, a blood pressure test (usually high, with a difference between right and left arm), reviewing the patient's history, and tests such as:
- Chest X-ray is a non-invasive test that takes pictures of the heart and lungs; these can help the doctor determine if there’s a problem that is causing your symptoms.
- Abdominal ultrasound is a non-invasive test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the abdominal aorta surrounded by other organs (liver, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys) thus showing any aneurysms.
- Echocardiogram is a non-invasive test using sound waves (ultrasound) to create a moving picture of the heart, the uppermost part of the aorta (arch and thoracic aorta) and any aneurysm.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) uses sound waves (ultrasound) to create detailed pictures of your heart and arteries. Unlike echocardiogram, TEE uses a probe that is passed through the mouth and into the esophagus. This provides a better picture of the aorta because the esophagus is right behind the heart and the probe does not have to penetrate the chest wall in the ribs and lungs to get a clear picture.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan is a non-invasive test that uses a computer to analyze a series of X-rays taken from different angles to create a detailed still picture of the chest including the heart, bones, aorta and smaller blood vessels.
- MRI uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed images of the heart, the aorta and the major aortic branches.