Introduction to Aortic Dissection
An aortic dissection is a condition in which the innermost layer of one of your main arteries (aorta) tears. This causes the separation of the inner and middle layers of the aorta.
What is an Aortic Dissection?
An aortic dissection is a condition in which the innermost layer of one of your main arteries (aorta) tears. This causes the separation of the inner and middle layers of the aorta. It is a relatively uncommon condition, which usually occurs in man in there 60’s or 70’s. The condition is often fatal.
What causes an Aortic Dissection?
An aortic dissection is usually caused by weakness in an area of the aortic wall. This can be put under strain by chronic high blood pressure, which may increase the susceptibility to it tearing. Aortic dissection is also associated with a condition called Marfan syndrome as you have an enlarged and weakened aorta. Sometimes the aortic dissection can be caused by a traumatic injury to the chest. Other risk factors include: hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), having a bulging artery (aortic aneurysm), having an aortic valve defect and having a narrowing in the aorta (aortic coarctation).
What are the symptoms of an Aortic Dissection?
The symptoms of an aortic dissection are often similar to those associated with other heart problems. These typically include: Severe chest pain that comes on suddenly, loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, weak pulse in one arm compared to the other and difficulty speaking, loss of vision and weakness.
An aortic dissection is an emergency so if you experience these symptoms then it is important to call for an ambulance.
How is an Aortic Dissection treated?
A transeophageal echocardiogram, a CT scan or an MRI scan are the imaging techniques used in the diagnosis of this condition.
Surgery is usually required for an aortic dissection. The surgeon can block the entry of blood into the aortic wall and reconstruct the aorta using a synthetic tube. If there is damage to the aortic valve, this may be replaced at the same time. A number of medications can be helpful for slowing the heart rate and reducing blood pressure. These include beta-blockers and nitroprusside. After the initial treatment you may have to take blood pressure medication for life.