The aorta is the largest artery in the body. It begins at the heart and ends in the abdomen where it divides into branches that lead towards the legs. Like all large arteries, the aorta may be affected by atherosclerosis ('hardening of the arteries'), in which cholesterol-containing plaques form in its wall. Such plaque formation can lead either to narrowing of the aorta (with reduced blood flow beyond), or to weakness of the wall causing a bulge (aneurysm).
About the test
Ultrasound is a good method for looking at the aorta in most people, and can pick up the presence of plaque and its complications. No patient preparation is required for this test.