Expert care for aortic dissection
When patients are experiencing an aortic dissection, they may experience symptoms similar to a heart attack or stroke. We know this makes it difficult to express your pain, especially when you’re also experiencing sudden severe chest pain or back pain described as a tearing sensation, severe abdominal pain, weakness or paralysis to one side of the body, difficulty speaking, and loss of consciousness. Our aortic experts closely monitor you and can diagnose our patients in multiple ways, including a physical exam that can reveal decreased circulation to 1 arm or leg compared with the other arm or leg, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or an echocardiogram.
Aortic dissections are a tear in the inside layer of the aorta. Blood travels inside the wall and may disrupt blood flow to vital organs, arms, or legs. Dissections of the ascending aorta should be repaired immediately due to risk of more severe disruptions in blood flow or rupture. Those involving the descending aorta may be treated with medicine alone. Sometimes they need to be treated with surgery if problems arise. Lifelong surveillance of the aorta is necessary to deal with abnormalities of blood flow or aneurysm formation in a previously dissected aorta.
There are 2 types of aortic dissections
- Involves a tear in the wall of the aorta that starts near the heart or a tear in the ascending aorta. The blood travels between the layers of the wall of the aorta. Injury of any of the branches of the aorta may occur
- Type A aortic dissections are more common than type B dissections. Type A is more likely to cause an acute aortic rupture. An acute type A dissection can be life-threatening and usually requires immediate surgery
- Involves a tear in the wall of the aorta that starts in the descending aorta after the blood vessels to the head. Blood dissects in the wall of the aorta and may cause injury to any of the branches causing significant problems
- The majority of aortic dissections are acute. However, symptoms can be vague and go undiagnosed until the tear in the aorta causes other complications that present 2 weeks later. Most chronic dissections are type B aortic dissections
Treating Aortic Dissections
The patient’s surgeon will determine the best option for their thoracic aortic dissection repair based on their medical history, signs, and symptoms, as well as the size and location of the aortic disease. Their surgeon will remove the portion of the aortic dissection and reconstruct the aorta with a synthetic tube called a graft. This may also require replacing the aortic valve if there is a significant aortic leak. Many of these patients can be treated with minimally invasive endovascular aortic procedures, depending on the situation.
We’re here for any and all emergencies
At the Aortic Center, our expert heart specialists will guide you through your treatment options and stand ready to provide our cutting-edge expertise in urgent emergency situations.