Prevalence and determinants of dilated ascending aorta in a Swedish population: a case-control study

Eur Heart J Open. 2023 Aug 25;3(5):oead085. doi: 10.1093/ehjopen/oead085. eCollection 2023 Sep.


Aims: Dilation of the ascending aorta (AA) is often asymptomatic until a life-threatening dissection or rupture occurs. An overall increase in the use of thoracic imaging has enabled early and sometimes incidental identification of AA dilation. Still, the prevalence and determinants of AA dilation remain to be clarified. The aim was to identify and characterize persons with AA dilation in a middle-aged Swedish population.

Methods and results: We used the Swedish CardioPulmonary BioImage Study Linköping (n = 5058, age 50-65 years) to identify cases with AA diameter ≥ 40 mm on coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) or chest computed tomography. Age- and gender-matched individuals with AA diameter < 40 mm served as controls. Echocardiography, blood pressure (BP) measurements (office and home), pulse wave velocity (PWV), coronary artery calcification (CAC), CCTA-detected coronary atherosclerosis, and carotid ultrasound were used to characterize these subjects. We identified 70 cases (mean AA diameter 44 mm, 77% men) and matched these to 146 controls (mean AA diameter 34 mm). Bicuspid aortic valve and aortic valve dysfunction were more common in cases than in controls (8% vs. 0% and 39% vs. 11%, respectively). Both office and home BP levels were significantly higher among cases. Also, high PWV (>10 m/s) levels were more common in cases (33% vs. 17%). Neither CAC scores nor prevalence or burden of atherosclerosis in coronary and carotid arteries differed between groups.

Conclusion: The prevalence of dilated AA was 1.4% and showed positive associations with male gender, aortic valve pathology, and diastolic BP, though not with subclinical atherosclerosis.

Keywords: Ascending aortic dilatation; Atherosclerosis; Bicuspid aortic valve disease; Hypertension.