The effect of age and gender on tortuosity of the descending thoracic Aorta

Eur J Radiol. 2019 Jan:110:54-59. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2018.11.017. Epub 2018 Nov 20.


Background: To study the effect of age and gender on tortuosity of the descending thoracic aorta, and to evaluate inter-observer agreement of tortuosity index (TI) measurements.

Methods: Contrast-enhanced CT scans of 182 patients were analyzed by an experienced radiologist using routine 3D imaging software. The descending aorta was defined by proximal and distal endpoints. The software generated centerline length, and straight line distance between the 2 endpoints were measured. TI was calculated as: [centerline length / straight line distance -1] * 100. Impact of age on TI of the descending aorta was assessed using linear regression in both genders. To assess inter-observer agreement; TI measurements of 50 cases were repeated by 3 other independent readers.

Results: The mean (±SD) TI was 8.3 ± 2.6 in men and 8.9 ± 3 in women, with no significant difference between the 2 genders, p = 0.208. Moderate positive correlation was observed between TI and age (r = 0.566, p < 0.00001 and r = 0.569, p < 0.00001 in men and women, respectively). The 10-year-percent change was higher in women than men (13.3% and 9.5%, respectively). Inter-observer agreement for TI was good, intra-class correlation coefficient was 0.84 (95% CI: 0.76-0.89, p < 0.0001). Centerline length was poorly correlated to age (r = 0.248, p = 0.048 in men and r = 0.369, p < 0.001 in women). Body-surface-area-indexed centerline length was not significantly correlated to age (p = 0.948).

Conclusions: Tortuosity of the descending aorta increases with age in both genders. TI has acceptable inter-observer agreement and was better correlated to age than centerline length measurements.

Keywords: Age; Aorta; Tortuosity; Tortuosity index.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aorta, Thoracic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Aorta, Thoracic / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Software
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Torsion Abnormality / diagnostic imaging*
  • Torsion Abnormality / pathology