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:
- 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.
- 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.