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Association of aortic wall thickness with stiffness in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)


The coupling of aortic wall thickening and stiffening has been recognized in hypertension. However, specific relationship between aortic wall thickness (AWT) and stiffness has not yet been documented in community-based studies. The purpose of this study is to evaluate associations between AWT and arterial stiffness measured by aortic distensibility and PWV in the MESA cohort.


423 studies by 1.5-T whole-body MRI were analyzed. CMRI protocol included cardiac function and late gadolinium enhancement. Only participants with no findings of myocardial scar were included. AWT images were obtained using a double inversion recovery black-blood fast spin-echo sequence and phase contrast cine gradient echo sequence was used to evaluate aortic stiffness. Aortic sagittal oblique plane with black blood sequence was acquired to position the aortic imaging and allowed for the measurement of the distance between the ascending and descending aorta. Images of the ascending and descending aorta were obtained in the transverse plane at the level of the right pulmonary artery perpendicular to the vessel lumen. The thickness of the midthoracic descending aortic wall was measured using electronic calipers at 4 standard positions: 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock (QMASS 7.2). The average value of these 4 measurements was calculated. Distensibiliy of the ascending aorta and PWV were performed using validated automated software (ARTFUN. INSERM U678).


Table 1 lists demographics, AWT, distensibility and PWV stratified by hypertension status. AWT was not different (p = 0.35) but distensibility was lower (p < 0.001) and PWV was higher (p = 0.012) in hypertension. Linear regression analyses (Table 2) demonstrate distensibility was significantly correlated to AWT in the cohort without hypertension. AWT was a predictor for PWV with the basic adjustment (Model 1) in the hypertension group, but this correlation diminished after adjusting for more variables (Model 2, only systolic blood pressure and black race were positively correlated to PWV significantly).

Table 1 Mean characteristics of the MESA participants stratified by hypertension status
Table 2 Regression models for association of distensibility and PWV with AWT (Regression coefficients B/P).


We have demonstrated aortic functional alterations with hypertension (lower distensibility and higher PWV) and the coupling between vessel wall thickness and function. Without hypertension, morphological changes is associated more strongly with distensibility, however, PWV are more affected by aortic wall thickening in hypertension.


This research was supported by contracts N01-HC-95159 through N01-HC-95168 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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Correspondence to Chia-Ying Liu.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Liu, C., Chen, D., Bluemke, D. et al. Association of aortic wall thickness with stiffness in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). J Cardiovasc Magn Reson 16, P83 (2014).

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  • Late Gadolinium Enhancement
  • Arterial Stiffness
  • Aortic Wall
  • Aortic Stiffness
  • Aortic Distensibility