AIM: To assess potential benefits of an additional unenhanced acquisition in computed tomography angiography (CTA) in patients with suspected acute aortic syndrome (AAS).
METHODS: A total of 103 aortic CTA (non-electrocardiography-gated, 128 slices) performed due to suspected AAS were retrospectively evaluated for acute aortic dissection (AAD), intramural hematoma (IMH), or penetrating aortic ulcer (PAU). Spiral CTA protocol consisted of an unenhanced acquisition and an arterial phase. If AAS was detected, a venous phase (delay, 90 s) was added. Images were evaluated for the presence and extent of AAD, IMH, PAU, and related complications. The diagnostic benefit of the unenhanced acquisition was evaluated concerning detection of IMH.
RESULTS: Fifty-six (30% women; mean age, 67 years; median, 68 years) of the screened individuals had AAD or IMH. A triphasic CT scan was conducted in 76.8% (n = 43). 56% of the detected AAD were classified as Stanford type A, 44% as Stanford type B. 53.8% of the detected IMH were classified as Stanford type A, 46.2% as Stanford type B. There was no significant difference in the involvement of the ascending aorta between AAD and IMH (P = 1.0) or in the average age between AAD and IMH (P = 0.548), between Stanford type A and Stanford type B in general (P = 0.650) and between Stanford type A and Stanford type B within the entities of AAD and IMH (AAD: P = 0.785; IMH: P = 0.146). Only the unenhanced acquisitions showed a significant density difference between the adjacent lumen and the IMH (P = 0.035). Subadventitial hematoma involving the pulmonary trunk was present in 5 patients (16%) with Stanford A AAD. The difference between the median radiation exposure of a triphasic (2737 mGy*cm) compared to a biphasic CT scan (2135 mGy*cm) was not significant (P = 0.135).
CONCLUSION: IMH is a common and difficult to detect entity of AAS. An additional unenhanced acquisition within an aortic CTA protocol facilitates the detection of IMH.