Aortic Dissection

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Definition

An aortic dissection is a tear that occurs between the innermost and middle layers of the aorta. The aorta, the main vessel that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body, is made of 3 layers.

Symptoms

Symptoms for an acute aortic dissection include tearing chest and back pain. Chronic dissections typically do not have symptoms.
Sometimes an aortic dissection is harmless. However, dissections can compromise blood flow to your kidneys, liver, bowels, spinal cord and legs.

What are the risk factors?

High blood pressure, cocaine use, smoking and some genetic disorders

How is it diagnosed?

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Angiogram
  • Echocardiogram

How is it treated?

Ascending aortic dissections are an emergency and are treated with open surgical repair. It usually requires a sternotomy and replacement of the ascending aorta with a graft.

Descending aortic dissections occur in the chest or in the abdomen and are treated different ways. If you have no symptoms, medical treatment with blood pressure control may be all that is necessary.

If it is causing symptoms or the artery has become weakened and aneurysmal, you may require repair via endovascular approach (from inside the artery) or open surgical repair. The endovascular repair is where a stent covered in fabric is used to reinforce the artery wall. Open surgical repair requires replacement of the artery with a graft.

How do I find a physician to treat my condition?

For further questions or to make an appointment please contact the Vascular Health Alliance at 864-454-8272.