A Patient's Guide to Aortic Disease

The Aortic Program at the Smidt Heart Institute offers comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for patients with aortic diseases, connective tissue disorders and Marfan syndrome. The program's multidisciplinary team of cardiovascular specialists, nurse practitioners and other clinicians provides patients with access to:

  • A thorough evaluation with leading edge diagnostic testing
  • An aortic nurse practitioner
  • Clinical trials and education on the latest advances in treatment options
  • Genetic screening for you and your family

Screening Process

Screening is recommended for patients with aortic disease or for those who are at a high risk of developing an aortic aneurysm (such as male patients over 65 years with history of smoking; patients with established diagnosis of peripheral vascular aneurysms). Undiagnosed aortic disease increases the likelihood of a life-threatening emergency, including aortic dissection and rupture. Lives may be saved when aortic illness is identified early and treatment begins.

Screening for aortic disease usually involves:

  • Providing a detailed medical history of the individual and multiple generations of their family
  • Undergoing diagnostic testing (including echocardiography and CT or MRI scans)
  • Reviewing and understanding test results and medical history
  • Planning appropriate ongoing monitoring, based on whether or not aortic enlargement is present
  • Developing a treatment plan if heart valve conditions are detected or if bicuspid aortic valves are part of a broader-based connective tissue disorder
  • Beginning appropriate systolic blood pressure control and planning for appropriately timed elective surgery (typically when the aneurysm reaches 4.5 cm) if signs of aortic dilation are found

Screening tests include:

Who Should Be Screened

Family Screening is recommended for following patients:

  • All first-degree relatives (parents, siblings and children) of those with bicuspid aortic disease, Loeys-Deitz syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome and other connective tissue disorders should have a complete aortic checkup. Since these conditions may skip generations, nephews and nieces, grandchildren and other relatives should also be notified and have a complete aortic checkup.
  • Patients with a family history of sudden heart-related death should be investigated. If autopsy reports are available, it will be possible to determine if the death occurred due to aortic disease (aortic rupture or aortic dissection). If no further information is available, all sudden heart deaths should be regarded with suspicion since aortic rupture or dissection may have occurred.

Family Screening for Aortic Disease

Those who are unaware of the presence of aortic disease are vulnerable to life-threatening emergency situations, including aortic dissection and rupture. In contrast, lives are saved when aortic illness is identified early and treatment (e.g., effective medical therapy, ongoing monitoring, lifestyle modifications and elective surgery) is begun.

Screening family members for aortic disease involves:

  • Providing a detailed medical history of the individual and multiple generations of their family
  • Undergoing diagnostic testing (including echocardiography and CT or MRI scans)
  • Reviewing and understanding test results and medical history
  • Planning appropriate ongoing monitoring, based on whether or not aortic enlargement is present
  • Developing a treatment plan if heart valve conditions are detected (Bicuspid aortic valves are part of a broader-based connective tissue disorder.)
  • Beginning appropriate systolic blood pressure control and planning for appropriately timed elective surgery (typically when the aneurysm reaches 4.5 cm) if signs of aortic dilation are found

If you have any questions about the screening process for aortic disease or would like to make an appointment for yourself or other family members, please contact the program coordinator.

Frequently Asked Questions

Aortic aneurysms, bicuspid aortic disease and Marfan syndrome are just a few of the conditions the Aortic Program's healthcare providers diagnose and treat.

You need a physician referral to be admitted to Cedars-Sinai for inpatient medical care. Depending on your health insurance, you may need a referral from your primary care physician to see one of Cedars-Sinai's cardiology specialists.

Yes. To arrange a second opinion from a Heart Institute physician about a heart disease diagnosis, call 310-423-3851.

Being prepared for an appointment allows you to make the most of the time you have with your doctor. Make a list of questions you want to ask during the appointment. Bring your health insurance card and a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking. Make sure your medical records have been transferred before your appointment. Information on billing, insurance and medical records is available in the Cedars-Sinai Patients & Visitors Guide.

Experts at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute are using their clinical experience and research knowledge to find new treatments, techniques and diagnostic procedures. Our ongoing clinical trials are open to all eligible participants, and patients are encouraged to pursue involvement.

General information about participating in clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai can be found in our Patients & Visitors Guide.

To make an appointment with a Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute physician, contact us at 310-423-3851.

For more information on reaching us from outside the United States, please contact our International Health Services team.

Have Questions or Need Help?

Call us or send a message to the Aortic Program team. You can also have us call you back at your convenience.

Available 24 hours a day

(1-800-233-2771)
TTY 711

Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Pacific Time (U.S.)