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Original research
Sex-specific distributions and determinants of thoracic aortic diameters in the elderly


Objective To provide population-based distributions of thoracic aortic diameters in men and women aged 55 years or older and to identify determinants of thoracic aortic diameters.

Methods From 2003 to 2006, 2505 participants (1208 men, mean age 69.1±6.8 years) from the prospective population-based Rotterdam Study underwent non-enhanced cardiac CT. The diameter of the ascending (AA) and descending aorta (DA) was measured at the level of the pulmonary bifurcation.

Results The mean diameter of the ascending and descending aorta was substantially larger in men (38±4 mm and 30±2 mm) than in women (35±3 mm and 27±2 mm). An ascending aortic diameter of larger than 40 mm was found in 228 (18.9%) men and 76 (5.9%) women and a descending aortic diameter larger than 40 mm was found in two men and no women. Male sex was found to be independently associated with larger DA diameter (standardised β 0.24, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.30), while a statistically non-significant trend was found for the AA diameter (standardised β 0.06, 95% CI 0.00 to 0.12). Age, height, weight and traditional cardiovascular risk factors were also associated with larger AA and/or DA diameters. Diabetes was associated with smaller AA and DA diameters. We found no evidence for effect modification by sex.

Conclusions In persons aged 55 years or older, an ascending aortic diameter of 40 mm or larger was found in 18.9% of men and 5.9% of women. Given the importance of sex, sex-specific distribution values may prove useful in clinical practice, even when correcting for body surface area or height.

  • aortic aneurysm
  • epidemiology
  • cardiac computer tomographic (CT) imaging
  • cardiac risk factors and prevention

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