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October 12, 1970

Linear Calcification of the Ascending Aorta Without Syphilis

JAMA. 1970;214(2):375. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180020093027

To the Editor.—  Several textbooks state that linear calcification of the ascending aorta is characteristic if not diagnostic of syphilis. While this "calcium sign" has been said to occur occasionally in patients with arteriosclerosis of the ascending aorta,1,2 exclusion of syphilis by pathological examination of the aorta or by routine serological studies may be difficult and the occurrence of this sign without lues has never been rigidly documented. The following report is of interest because the Treponema pallidum immobilization test and the fluorescent treponemal antibody test were negative.

Report of a Case.—  This 73-year-old woman presented with dyspnea on exertion and dizzy spells. She had been receiving digitalis and diuretics since 1962, and in 1965 her heart beat became irregular.On physical examination, the pulse rate was 80 beats per minute. The blood pressure was 180/90 mm Hg in the right arm and unobtainable in the left. A nodular