aortic dissection

Aortic dissection is a life-threatening medical emergency characterized by a tear in the inner lining of the aorta, the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When a tear occurs, blood can enter the wall of the aorta, causing it to separate (dissect) into layers. This creates a false channel for blood flow within the aortic wall, which can lead to a variety of complications.

Aortic dissection is often described based on the location of the tear within the aorta. The two main types are:

Stanford Type A: This type involves a tear in the ascending aorta, which is the portion of the aorta that rises from the heart. Stanford Type A dissections are considered more severe and typically require emergency surgical intervention.

Stanford Type B: This type involves a tear in the descending aorta, which is the portion of the aorta that extends downward from the chest. Stanford Type B dissections may be managed with medications to lower blood pressure and minimize the risk of complications, although some cases may still require surgery.


  • Aortic dissection is often associated with high blood pressure (hypertension), although it can occur in individuals with normal blood pressure.
  • Other risk factors include certain genetic conditions that affect the connective tissue of the aorta, such as Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, as well as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and traumatic injuries.


  • Severe chest pain, often described as a tearing or ripping sensation, is the hallmark symptom of aortic dissection. The pain may radiate to the back, neck, abdomen, or legs.
  • Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, loss of consciousness, weakness, and paralysis, depending on the location and extent of the dissection.

Why it's done

  • Emergency Management: Aortic dissection is a medical emergency that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment to prevent complications such as rupture, organ damage, and death. Treatment aims to stabilize the patient's condition, relieve pain, and prevent further tearing of the aorta.
  • Surgery: In many cases, surgery is necessary to repair the damaged portion of the aorta and prevent complications. The type of surgery depends on the location and extent of the dissection. Options may include open surgical repair or endovascular repair using minimally invasive techniques such as stent graft placement.

Benefits of Treatment:

  • Prevention of Complications: Prompt treatment of aortic dissection can help prevent potentially life-threatening complications such as aortic rupture, organ damage, stroke, and heart attack.
  • Improved Survival: With timely intervention, many patients with aortic dissection can achieve favorable outcomes and survival rates. Surgical repair of the damaged aorta can restore normal blood flow and prevent further tearing.
  • Symptom Relief: Treatment can alleviate symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath, improving the patient's overall comfort and quality of life.

In summary, aortic dissection is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention and treatment. Prompt diagnosis and intervention are essential for preventing complications and improving outcomes. Treatment aims to stabilize the patient, repair the damaged aorta, and prevent further tearing, ultimately reducing the risk of morbidity and mortality.