[Acute and subacute dissection of the thoracic aorta: diagnostic importance of magnetic resonance tomography]

C A Nienaber, Y von Kodolitsch, R P Spielmann
Herz 1992, 17 (6): 338-47
The purpose of this study was to retrospectively assess the reliability of ECG-triggered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the diagnosis of acute and subacute thoracic aortic dissection and associated clinical epiphenomena. 67 patients were subjected to MRI; the diagnostic results were compared with morphological standards. 25 patients had type A, 12 patients type B dissection. In 30 cases a dissection was excluded. 17 patients with aortic dissection had acute onset of symptoms, 10 patients had subacute onset of symptoms. 17 patients revealed thrombosis of the false lumen, which was found in the descending aorta in 59% of the cases. Aortic regurgitation and pericardial effusion was most often associated with type A dissection (Table 1). Three patients were studied while on mechanical ventilation. Scan time for MRI ranged from 15 to 71 minutes with an average of 46 +/- 18 minutes. In this series no deleterious events were encountered related to MRI diagnostics. In contrast to previously published data using other noninvasive techniques the sensitivity of MRI was 100% for detecting a dissection in the ascending segment of the thoracic aorta. Moreover, the specificity of MRI for a dissection was 100% and thus higher than previously published data using transesophageal echocardiography. Sensitivity and specificity for detection and correct classification of type B dissection was 100% and 100% respectively (Table 2). In addition, MRI proved to be sensitive in detecting the formation of thrombus material in the false lumen of the ascending aorta (92%), the aortic arch (100%) and the descending segment (88%). Specificity for exclusion of suspected thrombus material even proved to be slightly higher with 100% in the ascending and descending aorta and 96.1% in the aortic arch (Table 3). The site of entry to a dissection was detected in 78%, with a sensitivity of 76% in the ascending and 92% in the descending aorta. The involvement of side branches in the dissecting process was identified in 60%. There were no false positive findings concerning side branch involvement. Aortic regurgitation and pericardial effusion were detected in 100% and 100%, respectively (Tables 1 and 2). MRI performed even in acute cases proved to be a atraumatic, safe and highly sensitive method to identify and classify acute and subacute dissections of the entire thoracic aorta. Limited patient access was not associated with an increased risk and mechanical ventilation did not interfere with MRI. These results may establish MRI as a valid and promising noninvasive technique to establish the diagnosis in patients with thoracic aortic dissection.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)


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