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Aortic Dissection

An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which the inner layer of the aorta tears. When blood goes through the tear, it causes the inner and middle layer of the aorta to separate. When this happens, an aortic rupture or decreased blood flow may occur, which can be fatal. Aortic dissections are divided into two groups, type A and type B, depending on what part of the aorta is affected.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden chest or upper back pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Impaired speaking or loss of vision
  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of body
  • Weak pulse in one arm

Causes

An aortic dissection occurs in the weakened area of the aortic wall. A factor that may cause an aortic dissection is high blood pressure. Additionally, a patient can be born with Marfan syndrome, a condition associated with weakened or enlarged aorta that could cause an aortic dissection.

Who’s at risk?

Patients at higher risk for aortic dissection include those who are men, are 60 years of age, have uncontrolled high blood pressure, have atherosclerosis, have a weakened or bulging artery or have a narrow aorta from birth. Also, patients with diseases such as Turner’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome, inflammatory or infectious conditions, or other connective tissue disorders are at a higher risk for aortic dissection.

Diagnostics

When a physician notices common symptoms, he or she may test a patient for an aortic dissection with a CT scan or MRI.

Treatment

An aortic dissection is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

  • Medication – to reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure and prevent the aorta dissection from getting worse
  • Surgery – minimally invasive endovascular therapy using covered stents or open surgery may be required to treat certain types of aortic dissection.