Aortic dissection is a life-threatening medical emergency that occurs when there is a tear or rupture in the inner lining of the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This condition can be sudden, severe, and requires immediate medical attention.
Risk factors for aortic dissection include high blood pressure (hypertension), atherosclerosis, a family history of aortic dissection, certain genetic conditions (such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome), and certain pre-existing heart conditions.
The symptoms of aortic dissection can be similar to those of other heart conditions and often include sudden, severe chest pain that is described as tearing or ripping in nature. Pain may radiate to the back, neck, abdomen, or other areas. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.
Diagnosis usually involves imaging tests like a CT scan or transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) to visualize the aorta and confirm the presence of a dissection.
If left untreated, aortic dissection can lead to various complications, including rupture of the aorta, which is often fatal.
The treatment for aortic dissection depends on the type of dissection, the location and extent of the tear, and the patient’s overall condition. Surgical repair is often necessary for Ascending Aortic dissections, and medications to control blood pressure and heart rate are typically used. For Descending Aortic dissections, management may involve medications and, in some cases, minimally invasive endovascular procedures to repair the torn aorta. Dr.Nikhil says, “Ascending Aortic Dissection is a true cardiac surgical emergency. With a mortality rate of 1% per hour, 50% of patients with this diagnosis are dead in 48 hours!”.
Aortic dissection is a medical emergency, and prompt medical attention is critical. If you or someone you know experiences symptoms suggestive of aortic dissection, seek immediate emergency medical care. Rapid diagnosis and intervention are essential to improve the chances of survival and reduce complications.