Heart Disease

What is an aortic dissection?

A Answers (11)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Aortic Dissection
    Aortic dissection means there is a dangerous tear in the wall of the aorta, the major artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Watch as Dr. Oz explains more about aortic dissection and why it occurs.

  • An aortic dissection is a dangerous condition in which a tear develops in the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart. When an aortic dissection is detected early and treated quickly, your chance of survival greatly improves.

    There are two types of aortic dissections depending on where the tear occurs:

    1. Type A. This is the more common type of aortic dissection. It involves a tear in the ascending portion of the aorta just where it exits the heart or a tear extending from the ascending portion down to the descending portion of the aorta, which may extend into the abdomen.
    2. Type B. This type involves a tear in the descending aorta only, which also may extend into the abdomen.

    Aortic dissection occurs in a weakened area of the aortic wall. Risk factors may include:

    • Chronic high blood pressure
    • Inherited conditions associated with a weakened and enlarged aorta, such as Marfan syndrome
    • Traumatic injury to the chest area

    Some aortic dissection patients may be candidates for less invasive procedures, although some may need surgical treatment.

    Symptoms of aortic dissection are similar to those of a heart attack. They include: :

    • Sudden severe chest or upper back pain, or abdominal pain, often described as a tearing, ripping or shearing sensation, that radiates down the back.
    • Loss of consciousness (fainting) : .
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Weakness.
  • AMurray Kwon, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery, answered on behalf of UCLA Health
    An aortic dissection is where a tear creates a separation of the layers of the aorta. The aorta is normally a single-channel tube carrying blood to the body. When a dissection occurs, this single channel can become two or more. These channels are often weakened, thus leading to risk of growth of what are called aneurysms. They can potentially block blood flow to important parts of the body such as the brain, the kidney, the liver and the extremities. Aneurysms also represent a rupture risk of the aorta.
  • APenn Medicine answered

    An aortic dissection occurs when a tear in the wall of the aorta causes blood to flow between the layers of the wall of the aorta. This rip often forces the layers of the aorta apart.

    An aortic dissection is classified as Type A or Type B, depending on where it begins and ends. Type A begins in the first (ascending) part of the aorta, and Type B begins in the descending part of the aorta.

  • AAllan Stewart, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery, answered on behalf of Columbia University Department of Surgery

    An aortic dissection is a tear that originated in the internal lining of the aorta. This tear allows blood to course through the wall of the aorta, which has two major consequences. The first is that it will pressurize the outer section of the tube, which may lead to rupture. The second consequence is that the pressure in the outer portion of the wall may result in malperfusion, a state where blood is prevented from getting to its intended destination (i.e the kidneys or brain). Aortic dissections are categorized by the location of the originating tear. A type A Dissection involves the first portion of the aorta (the root or ascending). It is an emergency that requires immediate surgical intervention. A type B Dissection originates after the aortic arch. It is often treated with just blood pressure management with further interventions (like endovascular stenting) reserved for complications like rupture or malperfusion.  

  • Aortic dissections are tears in the inner lining of the aorta that allow blood to flow through the walls of the aorta rather than remaining in the central channel (lumen). Type A dissections (beginning in the ascending aorta) require emergency surgery, while type B dissections (located under the collarbone) may be treated medically or surgically, depending on the severity of the complications.
  • An aortic dissection is a split or tear along the inner layer of the aorta's wall. Dissections occur more frequently in regions of the aorta where pressure on the artery wall from blood flow is high, such as its first arching segment above the heart. When the aortic wall tears, blood fills the pocket between the inner and outer layers, often increasing the length of the tear. As the blood-filled space between the layers expands, it can weaken the aortic wall resulting in an aneurysm formation or the flap of the tear can block off critical blood vessels going to the bowels, kidney, or legs.

  • AHealthwise answered

    Aortic dissection is a tear between the inner and outer layers of the aortic wall. The tear can cause the wall to separate and rupture, resulting in life-threatening bleeding and death.

    The aorta, like all arteries, is made up of three layers, which are fused together. If the layers begin to separate, it causes bleeding into and around the tear. The bleeding widens the tear and causes the layers to separate. Typically, an aortic dissection occurs in the section of the aorta that leaves the heart and curves down through the chest.

    Aortic dissection can be caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and high blood pressure; traumatic injury to the chest, such as hitting the car steering wheel during an accident; and conditions that are present at birth, such as Marfan's syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

    Symptoms usually include sudden and severe chest or upper back pain, anxiety, pallor, sweating, and nausea. Aortic dissection usually requires emergency surgery to repair the tear.

    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. To learn more visit

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

  • ASteven Scott, MD, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Riverside Heart and Vascular Center

    The aorta is the largest blood vessel of the body, beginning at the heart, arching toward the back within the chest, and continuing down adjacent to the spine, where it divides to supply each leg. An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which the wall of the aorta tears, splitting in two to create two channels rather than one.  This is life-threatening, since the tear can cause the aorta to rupture, or it can disrupt flow to branches of the aorta that supply vital organs.  The tear can occur anywhere, but it most commonly occurs either in the first part of the aorta near the heart (the ascending aorta) or in the part of the aorta in the back of the chest (the descending aorta).  A dissection of the ascending aorta, near the heart, is a situation that requires emergency surgery to prevent rupture into the sac (the pericardium) around the heart and to prevent blockage of the coronary arteries.  A dissection of the descending aorta, in the back of the chest, can often be treated without surgery. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), uncontrolled high blood pressure, aneursyms, and certain inherited disorders which weaken the aorta may increase someone's risk of an aortic dissection.  The main symptom of an aortic dissection is severe chest or back pain, usually of sudden onset.  Any person with such symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. 

  • AEmily Farkas, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery, answered on behalf of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

    An aortic dissection is an internal split or tear in the wall of the aorta.  The aorta is a major blood vessel that exits the heart to travel throughout the entire body.  Like a run in a woman’s stocking, this tear will often travel a long distance from the place where it originates in the aorta.

    As the tear moves throughout the body it can affect the vessels branching  off the aorta to provide blood flow to different areas.  In the most severe cases, this could mean that the brain, heart, spinal cord, arms, legs, or major organs may have their necessary blood flow lessened or stopped entirely.  In this situation, surgery is required to restore normal blood flow.  Another scenario requiring surgery is when the tear occurs in the aorta closest to the heart. 

    Tears occurring in other locations may not require surgery.  Your doctor makes a recommendation for surgery based on how the branches of the aorta are affected by the dissection and the location of the original tear.
  • An aortic dissection is a tear in the wall of the aorta that allows blood to flow within the layers of the aorta. Because death from rupture or compromise of blood flow to major organs can ensue, early diagnosis and treatment of this illness is critical for survival.
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