- Sudden, intense "ripping" or "tearing" chest or upper back pain that spreads to the neck or down the back
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden difficulty speaking, loss of vision, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the body
- Much weaker pulse in one arm than the other
- Sudden tearing or ripping chest pain
- Widening of the aorta, shown on a chest X-ray
- Blood pressure difference between right and left arms
If a patient has the above symptoms and the doctor suspects aortic dissection, imaging techniques are used to make a conclusive diagnosis. Here are the ones most often used:
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan: A series of X-rays that produce cross-sectional images of the chest.
- Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA): This scan uses a magnetic field and pulses of radiowave energy to create pictures of the blood vessels of the chest.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): An echocardiogram test uses high-pitched sound waves to produce an image of the heart. A TEE is a type of echocardiogram in which an ultrasound probe is inserted down the throat close to the heart and aorta, and offers a picture of these two parts.
Most often, aortic dissection is treated with medication, blood pressure control and monitoring. If dissection enlarges or causes heart compromise, then surgery is indicated.
MINIMALLY INVASIVE TECHNIQUES
- Endovascular Stent Graft for Aortic Dissection: An aortic stent graft is the most common treatment option for an aortic dissection. Through a small incision in the groin, a catheter device (a carrier) is threaded through the vascular system to the area of the aortic dissection. The device leaves behind a stent graft, which provides a channel for blood to flow freely, repairs the blood leakage and prevents pressure from rupturing the aorta. Hospital stay is 1-2 days.
- Open Surgical Repair for Aortic Dissection: This traditional treatment involves opening the chest and removing the portion of the aorta where its layers have separated (dissected). A synthetic graft (tube) is sewn in place through which the blood can flow normally.