Aortic dissection

Aortic Dissection

What is aortic dissection?

An aortic dissection is a rare but often fatal condition. It typically occurs due to a tear in the inner wall of the aorta - the major artery that runs from the heart to the rest of the body. This tear causes blood to rush between the inner and middle walls of the aorta, causing them to dissect (separate). This can cause the aorta to rupture and can lead to sudden death if not treated urgently.

Aortic dissection most commonly occurs in men over the age of 60.

What are the different types of aortic dissection?

There are two types of aortic dissection:

What is the difference between aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm, and aortic rupture?

An aortic aneurysm occurs when a weakened area of the aorta wall begins to bulge. This can increase the risk of aortic dissection, which can lead to aortic rupture, where blood bursts through all layers of the aorta wall and into the body cavity.

What are the symptoms of aortic dissection?

The most common symptom of aortic dissection is sudden, severe stabbing or ripping pain in the chest, upper back, or abdomen.

Other symptoms may include:

What causes aortic dissection?

Aortic dissection occurs due to weakening of the artery wall. This may be caused by:

How is aortic dissection diagnosed?

Aortic dissection can be confused with other life-threatening conditions such as heart attack, due to overlapping symptoms including sudden onset of chest pain.

To confirm a diagnosis of aortic dissection, the following tests may be performed:

How is aortic dissection treated?

Aortic dissection is a medical emergency that requires urgent treatment. Surgery and medications are the most common treatment options, but this will differ depending on the type/location of the dissection within the aorta.

Those who have had an aortic dissection may require lifelong medication to control blood pressure, along with routine checkups and scans to monitor the condition.

How can aortic dissection be prevented?

Reducing the risk of aortic dissection may include:

Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years