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Accurate imaging is very important to the diagnosis and treatment of all aortic disease. Over the last two decades, imaging technology has evolved and expanded to help physicians detect even the smallest changes in the aorta.
The UCLA Aortic Center: Advanced Imaging for Aortic Disease
Quick and accurate aortic imaging is important to successful treatment of aortic disease especially in critical cases where every second counts. Advanced imaging technologies available at the UCLA Aortic Center provide an in-depth view into the anatomy of the aorta, detecting even small changes in blood flow that would otherwise go unnoticed. Cardiologists with expertise in non-invasive cardiac imaging offer same-day imaging studies and consultations for our patients to help with pre-operative evaluation and treatment.
In many cases, imaging technology is also used to help surgeons during aortic operations. UCLA’s operating rooms are outfitted with the latest imaging equipment for the use of our cardiac and vascular surgeons during endovascular repair, fenestrated endovascular repair and hybrid repair of aortic aneurysms.
Types of Imaging Tests at the UCLA Aortic Center
UCLA offers a complete range of diagnostic imaging techniques, including:
CT Angiography is a non-invasive medical test that provides fast, reliable imaging of the aorta and its branch vessels. UCLA is home to the most advanced CT equipment on the market including Dual Energy CT Angiography and Low Dose Coronary CT Angiography, which provide faster, more detailed images of the aorta with less radiation. CT combined with intravenous contrast dye can provide high-resolution images of the arterial system, which allows extremely accurate evaluation of blockages in the aorta and helps guide treatment decisions. This test is also extremely sensitive for detecting the location and severity of aortic injuries.
MRI imaging is a non-invasive medical test that allows the tissue and blood vessels of the body to be imaged without the need for radiation or dye tracing. Dynamic MRI is a powerful tool and new techniques allow evaluation of flow dynamics (circulation) in the aorta and branch vessels that can help doctors with treatment decisions.
Intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) is a minimally invasive technique that uses the ability of ultrasound to provide real-time images of the artery and its branch vessels, so that doctors can make immediate treatment decisions. Physicians insert an ultrasound device affixed to a catheter through the femoral artery and into the aorta allowing them to view the wall of the aortic vessel from the inside out. The test provides high definition images of aortic aneurysms, ulcers and dissections. IVUS can also help guide the exact placement of intravascular stents or endografts.
Combining traditional ultrasound with Doppler ultrasound, duplex ultrasound is a non-invasive test that uses an ultrasound wand to track the flow of blood within the aorta. This test can accurately diagnosis blockages and/or aneurysms and dissections within the aorta without the use of radiation or invasive procedures.
Angiography remains important in the assessment of the aorta, particularly when endovascular intervention is a possibility. This minimally invasive test provides surgeons with an excellent roadmap for deciding how and where to repair the aorta. During this test, your doctor inserts a small tube-like catheter into the groin and into the aorta through the femoral artery. Contrast dye is injected into the catheter and x-ray technology (fluoroscopy) tracks the flow of the dye as it moves through the arterial system. The ability to selectively look at small branch vessels helps surgeons target the source and stop bleeding in cases of trauma.
Also known as myocardial perfusion imaging, nuclear perfusion imaging provides better accuracy than traditional electrocardiogram (EKG) testing. The minimally invasive technique produces images of your heart when it is under stress and at rest. Your doctor may perform this test using SPECT (single proton emission computed tomography) or PET (positron emission tomography). First, a radioactive tracer is injected into your blood steam. Next, you will exercise on a treadmill to put stress on your heart. By using SPECT or PET imaging technology to track how the tracer travels through your heart on the treadmill and at rest, doctors can determine whether the blood flow to the heart is normal.