BACKGROUND Aortic dissection is a lift-threatening medical emergency associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality. The incidence rate of aortic dissection is estimated at 5 to 30 per 1 million people per year. The prompt and correct diagnosis of aortic dissection is critical. This study was to compare the ascending aortic image quality and the whole aortic radiation dose of high-pitch dual-source CT angiography and conventional dual-source CT angiography. METHODS A total of 110 consecutive patients with suspected aortic dissection and other aortic disorders were randomly divided into two groups. Group A underwent traditional scan mode and Group B underwent high-pitch dual-source CT scan mode. The image quality and radiation dose of two groups were compared. RESULTS Close interobserver agreement was found for image quality scores (κ = 0.87). The image quality of ascending aorta was significantly better in the high-pitch group than in the conventional group (2.78 ± 0.46 vs 1.57 ± 0.43, P < 0.001). There was no significant difference of the CT attenuation values, the aortic image noise and SNR between two groups. The mean radiation dose of high-pitch group was also significantly lower than that of conventional group (2.7 ± 0.6 mSv vs. 3.9 ± 0.9 mSv, P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS High-pitch dual-source CT angiography of the whole aorta can provide motion-artifact-free imaging of the ascending aorta at a low radiation dose compared to conventional protocol.