An aortic dissection is a dangerous condition. A tear develops in the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart.
When an aortic dissection is detected early and treated promptly, your chance of survival greatly improves. Because of the complexity of this condition, only specialized vascular centers such as MedStar Washington Hospital Center have the capability to manage and successfully treat these conditions.
There are two types of aortic dissections and are known by where the tear occurs:
- Type A. This is the more common and dangerous type of aortic dissection. It involves a tear in the ascending portion of the aorta just where it exits the heart, or a tear extending from the ascending portion down to the descending portion of the aorta. This tear may extend into the abdomen.
- Type B. This type involves a tear in the descending aorta only, which also may extend into the abdomen.
Causes of Aortic Dissection
Aortic dissection occurs in a weakened area of the aortic wall. Risk factors may include:
- Chronic high blood pressure
- Inherited conditions associated with a weakened and enlarged aorta
Symptoms of Aortic Dissection
Symptoms of Aortic dissection are similar to those of a heart attack. They include:
- Sudden severe chest or upper back pain, often described as a tearing, ripping or shearing sensation, that radiates down the back
- Loss of consciousness (fainting)
- Abdominal pain
- Sudden onset of leg pain with compromised blood flow
When an aortic dissection is suspected, it is usually an emergency condition. Prompt diagnostic testing is recommended. These tests may include:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR)
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan
Learn more about diagnostic testing.
Where to go from here?Previous Topic: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
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