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What is aortitis?

Aortitis is a rare form of vasculitis characterized by inflammation that predominantly affects the aorta. This type of vasculitis has been recognized as a separate entity relatively recently, and its definition continues to be the subject of debate. Generally, cases of aortitis include patients with aortitis with or without vasculitis of other large vessels who cannot be classified as having another type of large vessel vasculitis (such as giant cell arteritis or Takayasu’s arteritis) or another systemic condition known to be associated with aortitis.

Who gets aortitis?

Aortitis tends to affect individuals who are older than 60 and affects women more often than men.

What causes aortitis?

Aortitis is believed to be an autoimmune disease. A trigger for aortitis has not been found so far.

How is aortitis diagnosed?

Aortitis is diagnosed in one of two ways: 1) when an imaging test (such as a CT, MRI, or PET scan) shows evidence of inflammation of the aorta or 2) when examination of aortic tissue obtained following removal of an aortic aneurysm or another type of cardiac or vascular surgery shows inflammation in the aorta. Aortitis is then diagnosed when detailed history and investigations fail to reveal evidence of another systemic condition, such as giant cell arteritis, Takayasu’s arteritis, or another condition that is known to be associated with aortitis.

What is the treatment for aortitis?

Optimal treatment of aortitis is not known. Indeed, it is not known at this time whether aortitis needs to be treated, and if so what the treatment should be and how long it should be continued. Surgical removal of a segment of aorta may be sufficient to treat localized aortitis found on pathologic examination from aortic surgery when no additional areas of inflammation are present. In cases where medical treatment is deemed necessary, glucocorticoids (prednisone) are primarily used, and immunosuppressive medications may be added to suppress the inflammation in the aorta.