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Imaging Insights on the Aorta in Aging [Advances in Cardiovascular Imaging]

The aorta has 2 main functions, conduit and cushion, and is designed to transmit blood to the periphery and buffer pulsatile stress from ventricular contraction. In the interaction between the structural and functional changes of the aorta, aging and disease processes impact on aortic material properties and hemodynamics. For a comprehensive assessment of changes in aortic structure and function associated with aging and disease, noninvasive cardiovascular imaging techniques, especially magnetic resonance imaging, have recently been developed. Magnetic resonance imaging allows for direct and accurate measurement of different aortic characteristics including structural measures such as aortic area or volume, aortic length, curvature, and aortic wall thickness and functional measures such as aortic strain, distensibility, and pulse wave velocity. Excellent reproducibility of magnetic resonance imaging methods allows us to assess the response of the whole aorta to both pharmacological and nonpharmacological therapies. Aortic flow and functional assessment could be added to clinical routine cardiac magnetic resonance as a comprehensive imaging modality primarily performed for the noninvasive evaluation of left ventricular function, left ventricular load, and vascular/ventricular coupling. New techniques such as 4-dimensional flow could provide and further elucidate the combined age-related effects of altered aortic geometry and function. This following review will describe the pathophysiological aspects of the aorta and the ability, value, and prospects of cardiovascular imaging, especially magnetic resonance imaging, to study age-related changes in aortic structure and function and assess the relationship between these alterations and cardiovascular disease.

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