Distribution, determinants, and normal reference values of thoracic and abdominal aortic diameters by computed tomography (from the Framingham Heart Study)

Am J Cardiol. 2013 May 15;111(10):1510-6. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2013.01.306. Epub 2013 Mar 13.


Current screening and detection of asymptomatic aortic aneurysms is based largely on uniform cut-point diameters. The aims of this study were to define normal aortic diameters in asymptomatic men and women in a community-based cohort and to determine the association between aortic diameters and traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Measurements of the diameters of the ascending thoracic aorta (AA), descending thoracic aorta (DTA), infrarenal abdominal aorta (IRA), and lower abdominal aorta (LAA) were acquired from 3,431 Framingham Heart Study (FHS) participants. Mean diameters were stratified by gender, age, and body surface area. Univariate associations with risk factor levels were examined, and multivariate linear regression analysis was used to assess the significance of covariate-adjusted relations with aortic diameters. For men, the average diameters were 34.1 mm for the AA, 25.8 mm for the DTA, 19.3 mm for the IRA, and 18.7 mm for the LAA. For women, the average diameters were 31.9 mm for the AA, 23.1 mm for the DTA, 16.7 mm for the IRA, and 16.0 mm for the LAA. The mean aortic diameters were strongly correlated (p <0.0001) with age and body surface area in age-adjusted analyses, and these relations remained significant in multivariate regression analyses. Positive associations of diastolic blood pressure with AA and DTA diameters in both genders and pack-years of cigarette smoking with DTA diameter in women and IRA diameter in men and women were observed. In conclusion, average diameters of the thoracic and abdominal aorta by computed tomography are larger in men compared with women, vary significantly with age and body surface area, and are associated with modifiable cardiovascular disease risk factors, including diastolic blood pressure and cigarette smoking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aorta, Abdominal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Aorta, Thoracic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Aortic Aneurysm / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Aneurysm / epidemiology
  • Body Surface Area
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • United States / epidemiology