Aortic Dissection

Your vessels are composed of different layers. When there is a separation of these layers in your main artery, aorta, it is termed “abdominal aortic dissection”. This situation is highly mortal.

Signs / Symptoms

What's common signs of aortic dissection?

  • Pain (highly likely to resemble one of the following):
    • Sudden and severe chest pain that feels like tearing
    • Intrascapular pain
    • Pain in the jaw or neck
    • Pain in the stomach
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stroke symptoms like weakness in extremities
  • Altered mental status
  • Fever
  • Anxiety and premonitions of death

Common causes

What's common causes of aortic dissection?

  • Arterial problems (atherosclerosis, aneurysm, narrowed aorta at birth)
  • Elevated blood pressure. 
  • Age over 60 years
  • Congenital causes like Marfan syndrome
  • Cocaine use
  • Strenuous exercie
  • History of cardiologic procedures such as coronary artery bypass graft surgery

Departments & Emergency

In case of severe chest pain, fainting, sudden shortness of breath or symptoms of a stroke, call 911 immediately. These do not necessarily point to a serious condition but early medical intervention is important. Cardiology and cardiovascular surgery are the primary departments for curing the aortic dissection. They might also refer you to other departments.

Diagnosis

  • Medical history
  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests (especially for checking common causes)
  • Imaging test: ECG (Electrocardiography), Chest radiography, Computed tomography (CT) with contrast, MRI, transesophageal echocardiography, CT angiography, contrast aortography 

Treatment

Aortic dissection can be treated surgically or medically. 

In surgical treatment, the torn aorta is usually replaced with a graft. 

Medical management is aimed at decreasing the blood pressure and managing the pain.

References

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