Penetrating atherosclerotic aortic ulcer: documentation by transesophageal echocardiography

I Vilacosta, J A San Román, P Aragoncillo, J Ferreirós, R Mendez, C Graupner, E Batlle, J Serrano, A Pinto, J M Oyonarte
Journal of the American College of Cardiology 1998, 32 (1): 83-9

OBJECTIVES: This study sought to describe the ability of transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) to document the presence of penetrating atherosclerotic aortic ulcers and their complications.

BACKGROUND: TEE has greatly enhanced our ability to assess patients with suspected aortic disease. However, the utility of this technique in the diagnosis of penetrating atherosclerotic aortic ulcers is still undefined.

METHODS: TEE was performed prospectively in 194 patients to evaluate aortic disease. Twelve patients with the diagnosis of aortic ulcers or their complications were specifically studied. The diagnosis was confirmed by pathologic studies in six patients and by an additional diagnostic technique (angiography, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging) in the other six. All 12 patients were hypertensive and presented with chest or back pain; the mean age was 65 years (range 56 to 79). The initial working diagnosis was acute aortic dissection in nine patients. Aortic ulcers were located in the descending thoracic aorta in eight patients, the aortic arch in two and the ascending aorta in two.

RESULTS: TEE could detect aortic ulcers or their complications in 10 patients but failed to detect these lesions in the remaining 2 (1 with aortic ulcers in the distal ascending aorta and 1 with aortic ulcers in the aortic arch). In four patients, aortic ulcers were detected as a calcified focal outpouching of the aortic wall and were associated with concomitant aneurysmal dilation of the aorta in two patients and with a small localized intramural hematoma in one. TEE visualized a partially thrombosed pseudoaneurysm complicating an aortic ulcer in the descending thoracic aorta of two patients. Four patients had an aortic ulcer complicated by a "limited aortic dissection" in the descending aorta that could be detected by TEE. Five patients underwent operation, two because of aneurysmal dilation of the aorta and three because of aortic dissection; two patients died of aortic rupture; the remaining five did well (11-month follow-up) without operation.

CONCLUSIONS: Aortic ulcers should be included in the differential diagnosis of chest or back pain, especially in elderly hypertensive patients. These ulcers and their complications may be recognized by TEE.


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