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Nurse led Aortopathy Clinic managing your condition

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Aortopathy means a disease of the aorta. It includes a dilated aorta, when the aorta is wider than normal at one or more points and / or a weakened aorta, often due to a genetic condition.

  • Many patients experience no symptoms which is why dilated aortas are often detected during investigations for other problems.
  • Rarely a dilated aorta can tear and become life threatening.
  • Take your usual medication but do not take sedatives or tranquilisers.

If you experience the following symptoms call 999:

  • Severe chest or back pain.
  • Pain in jaw / neck / upper back.
  • Difficulty in breathing.

Tests for monitoring the aorta.

There are different types of imaging test we use to monitor the aorta and you will have one or more of these at intervals:

CT Scans (Computerised tomography).

These can provide a clear picture of your aorta and detect the size and shape of any dilation you may have.

You pass through a ‘doughnut’ shaped scanner which takes X ray images: this is painless. You may be given some ‘contrast’ dye via a vein in your arm. The contrast helps produce a much clearer picture of the aorta. We may need to check your kidney function with a blood test before giving you contrast.

A CT scan also involves radiation so patients who need ongoing surveillance of their aorta may be referred for a different type of scan.

MRI Scans (Magnetic Resonance imaging).

MRI allows us to take pictures of the aorta without using radiation. The scanner uses a strong magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to take detailed pictures of your aorta.

The scanner does make loud noises when the pictures are being taken. You will wear headphones that reduce the noise and allow the radiographer to talk to you. Patients who do not like enclosed spaces may find this test difficult. It is important to let us know if you think this may be the case.

Trans Thoracic Echocardiograms ‘Echo’.

An echo is an ultrasound scan of your heart. Gel is put onto your chest and a probe is used to look at the heart and aorta.

This test is carried out in the cardiac department and usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.

What can I do to improve my condition?

Unfortunately, once you have a dilated aorta it won’t get better but there are steps you can take to prevent it getting worse:

  • Keep your blood pressure (BP) well controlled:                                                                                    Have regular BP checks
    A target BP to aim for is 130 / 80mmHg.
  • Give up smoking as this is harmful to the aorta.
  • Avoid lifting heavy weights as this can put an increased strain on your aorta.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduce your cholesterol.
  • Take regular exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling.
  • If you are planning a pregnancy please let the nurse specialist know as it may be important to obtain up to date imaging of your aorta and have a review with your cardiologist.
  • Attend your imaging appointments so your aorta can be assessed regularly.

Contact details.

Jo Jessup Aortopathy Nurse Specialist


Further information.

This leaflet was funded by The Sussex Heart Charity. registered Charity number: 1120998

This project is funded by Friends of Brighton & Hove Hospitals. registered Charity number: 209414

Patient advice and liaison service (PALS).

We recognise that coming to hospital can sometimes be difficult and we are here to help, should you need it.

If you have any issues or concerns about your care it is always best to speak initially to the person in charge of the ward or department. If you’re not happy with their response, please do get in touch with PALS.


The information in this leaflet is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

Publication Date: June 2022

Review Date: March 2025

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