Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Diagnosis

Typically a thoracic aortic aneurysm grows slowly and without symptoms, making it difficult to detect. Often, a thoracic aortic aneurysm is discovered during a routine medical or imaging test, such as an X-ray or ultrasound, sometimes ordered for a different condition.

Diagnosing Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm at Fletcher Allen: Specialized Vascular Imaging

Fletcher Allen’s vascular technologists and imaging specialists are specially trained in the latest technology to diagnose vascular problems. The process of diagnosis may involve the following:

  • Echocardiogram - A noninvasive test using ultrasound waves to evaluate your heart’s structure and blood flow.  A computer translates the ultrasound waves into an image of your heart.  The image is displayed on a monitor, and it can be recorded on videotape or printed on paper.  
  • Computed Tomography (CAT or CT) scanAt Fletcher Allen we offer the most advanced CT technology available today, providing comprehensive images of organs within seconds with a high degree of accuracy.  A CT scan may be recommended if your aortic aneurysm has grown to a certain size, to determine if it needs to be repaired. 
  • Chest X-rayThis painless test creates a picture of the chest that shows your heart, lungs, airway, blood vessels and lymph nodes.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA)This is another painless, imaging test that is a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan using a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of the blood vessels inside your body.
  • Non-invasive vascular laboratory - Diagnosing vascular problems typically begins in our nationally accredited non-invasive diagnostic laboratory, conveniently located in the Vascular Surgery clinic at Fletcher Allen’s Ambulatory Care Center. Patients are often able to see a doctor and have a non-invasive test during a single visit.
  • Highly skilled technologists - The lab is staffed by registered vascular technologists, who are highly skilled specialists with advanced training in non-invasive vascular imaging and testing. By focusing solely on vascular problems, these technologists bring an in-depth knowledge to the diagnosis of vascular patients. 

Diagnosing the Full Range of Vascular Problems

The vascular surgery lab offers imaging and testing for the full range of vascular problems affecting all areas of the body. It provides two main types of testing -- physiological studies and ultrasound imaging. 

Both are non-invasive tests that are usually painless and relatively quick. They enable your physician to decide whether additional, more invasive tests are needed. These studies also can identify problems such as arterial atherosclerosis or vein disease.

  • Physiological studies – These studies measure the amount of blood traveling through the vessels with and without exercise. They help determine if blockages exist.
  • Ultrasound imaging – This is an imaging study that uses sound waves to produce a video image of your blood vessels. We use ultrasounds to check for a potential aortic aneurysm, as well as blocked blood vessels in the neck, abdomen or extremities. In some cases, it may be the only test necessary to determine the need for an operation or stenting procedure.

Learn more about treatment for thoracic aortic aneurysm.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-0000.