Aortic dissections are a life-threatening illness. An aortic dissection results from a sudden tear in the lining of the aorta and immediately threatens the integrity of the aortic wall. Patients with an aortic dissection most often describe an intense and severe tearing sensation in their chest and back. The pain is so severe that it frequently causes the individual to pass out. Immediate medical attention is needed when this occurs.
Aortic dissections can often be related to pre-existing aortic aneurysm disease. Aortic dissections are diagnosed with a CAT scan of the chest and abdomen. Once diagnosed, they are classified by the location within the aorta where the tear begins. If the tear occurs in the ascending aorta, which is closest to the heart, emergency heart surgery is needed. If the tear occurs, as pictured, in the descending thoracic aorta, then either medical therapy or surgery is indicated and is decided by the presence of other medical factors.
We will discuss aortic dissections in more detail in future blog posts.