Aortic Dissection

Aortic Dissection

Definition

Aortic dissection is when a layer tears in the aorta. The aorta is the main blood vessel leading from the heart.

This condition can impair blood flow to vital organs. It can lead to stroke, cardiac arrest, or death. It may also rupture and lead to serious bleeding. It needs to be treated right away.

Heart and Main Vessels

BP00015_96472_1
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The aorta has three layers. Aortic dissection happens when pressure causes a tear in an inner layer of the aorta. Blood then gets between layers. This causes the layers to separate. It also squeezes off the main channel of blood.

Risk Factors

This condition is more common in men over 60 years old and women over age 67. Other things that raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Aortic dissection may cause:

  • Sudden, ripping pain in the chest and or back
  • Stroke
  • Fainting
  • Problems breathing
  • Sudden weakness

Diagnosis

Aortic dissection is often a sudden event. It is a medical emergency. At the hospital, the doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Imaging tests will check the aorta and surrounding structures. These may include:

Diagnosis is based on imaging test results.

Treatment

The first goal is emergency care. Once the person is stabilized, treatment is determined. Treatment depends on where in the aorta the tear has happened. One type of aortic dissection needs surgery right away. Another type can often be managed without surgery (if no blood vessels are blocked).

Treatment options may be:

  • Surgery—The chest is opened and the aorta is repaired.
  • Medicines to:
    • Reduce heart rate
    • Reduce blood pressure
    • Ease pain

The goal of long-term treatment is to reduce stress on the aorta. This may include managing blood pressure, cholesterol, and other conditions.

Prevention

The risk of this condition may be lowered by:

  • Managing high blood pressure, cholesterol, and other conditions
  • Not using tobacco or stimulant drugs

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

References:

Aortic dissection. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed July 16, 2021.
Silaschi M, Byrne J, Wendler O. Aortic dissection: medical, interventional and surgical management. Heart. 2017;103(1):78-87.
Thoracic aortic aneurysm. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/thoracic-aortic-aneurysm. Accessed July 16, 2021.
Thoracic aortic dissection. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/thoracic-aortic-dissection . Accessed July 16, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/16/2021

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at healthlibrarysupport@ebsco.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.

Home |Terms and Conditions |Concerned About Privacy? |Accessibility |Careers |For Employers and Medical Plan Providers

You may also be looking for: CVS/pharmacy | MinuteClinic | Specialty Pharmacy | SilverScript | Accordant