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Aortic Dissection

What is aortic dissection?
Aortic Dissection is a tear or partial tear in the lining of the aorta. This tear allows blood to penetrate the arterial wall. Over time, this continuous flow can cause the aorta to rupture--an event that most people do not survive.

There are two types of aortic dissections. Type A is a dissection to the ascending aorta. These dissections can be treated medically (usually only briefly) or with interventional catheterization or open-heart surgical techniques. Type B is a dissection of the descending aorta. These dissections are most often treated medically with routine monitoring and prescribed medications.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of aortic dissection?
Aortic dissections most commonly occur in those with high blood pressure, arteriosclerotic vascular disease, in those who have a family history of aortic dissections.

A "stabbing" pain in the back is a common symptom of an aortic dissectiom. In some cases, victims experience pain in the chest. This pain may be confused with angina. However, in the event of an aortic dissection, the pain is intense and suddenly onset. The pain is characterized as a "ripping" or "tearing" sensation. This sudden pain can be felt in the back, chest, neck, or jaw. In some cases, people do not experience chest pain, but a distorted mental capacity, or numbness in the arms and legs.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. The survival rate increases dramatically the sooner medical attention is received.

What are the treatment options for an aortic dissection?
Three treatment options exist for an Aortic Dissection: 1) medicinal management, 2) interventional catheterization, and 3) cardiovascular surgery. Depending upon the location and severity of the dissection, your physician will decide which option is best for you.

For a referral to a St. Joseph's cardiologist call 979.821.7589. 

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