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Original research article
Aortic elongation part I: the normal aortic ageing process

Abstract

Objectives Differentiation between normal and abnormal features of vascular ageing is crucial, as the latter is associated with adverse outcomes. The normal aortic ageing process is accompanied by gradual luminal dilatation and reduction of vessel compliance. However, the influence of age on longitudinal aortic dimensions and geometry has not been well studied. This study aims to describe the normal evolution of aortic length and shape throughout life.

Methods A total of 210 consecutive patients were prospectively enrolled in this cross-sectional single-centre study. All subjects underwent CT on a third-generation dual-source CT scanner. Morphometric measurements, including measurements of segmental length and tortuosity, were performed on three-dimensional models of the thoracic aorta.

Results The length of the thoracic aorta was significantly related to age (r=0.54) and increased by 59 mm (males) or 66 mm (females) between the ages of 20 and 80 years. Elongation was most pronounced in the proximal descending aorta, which showed an almost 2.5-fold length increase during life. The lengthening of the thoracic aorta was accompanied by a marked change of its geometry: whereas the aortic apex was located between the branch vessels in younger patients, it shifted to a more distalward position in the elderly.

Conclusions The normal ageing process is accompanied by gradual aortic elongation and a notable change of aortic geometry. Part II of this two-part article investigates the hypothesis that excessive elongation could play a role in the occurrence of acute aortic dissection.

  • aortic elongation
  • vascular aging
  • aortic aging

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