Aortic dissection occurs when there is a tear in the wall of the aorta, which leads to blood entering the wall of the aorta with disruption of its normal structure. Aortic dissection is an emergency and requires treatment immediately. Mortality is high after aortic dissection, even with rapid treatment.
People with aortic dissections will usually report chest or back pain which starts suddenly. Specific symptoms can vary depending on the location of the dissection, including stroke, paralysis, kidney failure, or heart attack. High blood pressure is the most common reason a person develops an aortic dissection,
Aortic dissections are usually diagnosed by CT scans. Other tests, such as echocardiography, MRI scans, or angiography, can also diagnose an aortic dissection. The location of the dissection will determine if emergency surgery is required. Many aortic dissections will require heart surgery to repair, while others can be repaired with a stent graft. Some dissections can be managed with medications only, although there is a possibility that future surgery will be required.
All patients with aortic dissections will need continued follow-up with their physician to ensure that new dissections do not occur, or previous dissections do not grow. Some patients will develop aortic aneurysms as a consequence of the initial aortic dissection, and will require surgery to repair.