Know the basics
What is aortic dissection?
Aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition in which bleeding occurs into the aorta wall layers and makes them pull apart.
The aorta is the largest artery and carries blood from the heart. It’s divided into the ascending aorta, the connecting aortic arch, and the descending aorta. Depend on where the dissection happens there are two types of aortic dissection:
- Type A involves ascending aorta and the connecting aortic arch. It is more common and requires immediate medical attention.
- Type B involves the descending
How common is aortic dissection?
Aortic dissection is more common in men 60 to 70 years old but can affect people as young as 40. It can be catastrophic and cause sudden death or heart failure.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of aortic dissection?
In most cases, aortic dissection starts suddenly with symptoms include sharp, tearing chest pain under the chest bone (sternum) and going to the shoulders, neck, arms, and between shoulder blades or in the back. Pain is sudden and can be severe.
Other symptoms include shortness of breath, sweating, confusion, fainting, lightheadedness, and apprehension. Hypertension, rapid heart rate, different blood pressure readings in both arms, a new heart murmur, kidney failure, stroke, and heart attacks can occur.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Aortic dissection may be fatal. If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or heavy chest pain, fainting or sudden shortness of breath, please consult with your doctor or your local health service immediately.
Know the causes
What causes aortic dissection?
A tear of the inner layer lets blood push the inner and outer aorta wall layers apart. The cause is unknown, but aortic dissection is usually associated with hypertension (high blood pressure) and atherosclerosis. It also occurs with connective tissue disorders such as Marfan’s and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.
Infections such as syphilis can rarely lead to aneurysms (bulging of the artery), which are likely to dissect.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for aortic dissection?
There are many risk factors for aortic dissection, such as:
- Defective aortic valve;
- Coarctation of the aorta;
- Genetic diseases such as turner syndrome, marfan syndrome, other connective tissue disease (Ehlers-Dârlos syndrome, syndrome Loeys – Dietz), and inflammation (giant cell arteritis and syphilis).
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor.
How is aortic dissection diagnosed?
If the doctor supects aortic dissection based on your history and physical exam, additional tests may include computed tomography (CT), MRI, or transesophageal echocardiography.
- In transesophageal echocardiography, the doctor puts a probe into the mouth and down the esophagus to get special views of the aorta.
- MRI uses a magnetic field to look at the aorta.
- In angiography, the doctor puts a thin tube (catheter) into a leg artery and up to the aorta and injects dye to take pictures of the aorta.
How is aortic dissection treated?
Treatment depends on where the dissection is.
- Type A dissection involves the ascending aorta; type B means dissection of the descending aorta. Surgery is used for type A dissections. The tear in the aorta is stitched together as are the edges of the dissected wall.
- Type B dissections need medical treatment (control of blood pressure) to lower pressure inside the aorta.
Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies help manage aortic dissection?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with aortic dissection:
- Control your blood pressure. Most aortic dissections occur in people with long-standing hypertension.
- Follow a low-salt diet, exercise, and lose weight.
- Do not smoke.
- Wear seatbelt to avoid chest injury.
If you have any questions, Please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: August 16, 2016 | Last Modified: November 29, 2019
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download version.
Porter, Robert. Kaplan Justin. Homeier Barbara. The Merck manual home health handbook. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2009. Print edition. Page 431.