Pericardial recess mimicking traumatic aortic injury

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Imaging description In some patients, fluid in the anterior portion of the superior aortic recess of the pericardium can extend cranially and abut the aortic arch and the arch branch vessel origins. In patients being evaluated for trauma with multidetector CT, this fluid may be mistaken for periaortic hematoma (Figure 58.1). However, unlike hemorrhage, fluid in a pericardial recess will measure simple fluid attenuation and will have sharp, well-defined borders. Pericardial fluid abuts the aorta and great vessels without an intervening fat plane. Patients with acute aortic injury and hematoma will have high-attenuation fluid next to the aorta and a contour abnormality or intimal flap within the aorta itself. Importance Misdiagnosis of traumatic aortic injury could lead to inappropriate invasive catheter angiography or surgery. Typical clinical scenario Fluid in the superior aortic recess is common and may be encountered in patients with or without an associated pericardial effusion. Differential diagnosis In the setting of trauma, fluid in the superior pericardial recess can mimic periaortic hemorrhage; however, these entities can usually be distinguished by attenuation measurements (Figure 58.2). Fluid collections in the superior aortic recess simulating lymphadenopathy or aortic dissection have also been described. Teaching point Fluid in the anterior portion of the superior aortic recess abutting the aortic arch can mimic periaortic hematoma. Measurement of fluid attenuation values and close inspection of the aorta for contour abnormalities or intimal injury will help avoid misdiagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPearls and Pitfalls in Cardiovascular Imaging
Subtitle of host publicationPseudolesions, Artifacts and Other Difficult Diagnoses
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages3
ISBN (Electronic)9781139152228
ISBN (Print)9781107023727
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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