An aortic dissection is a dangerous condition that occurs when 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 promptly, your chance of survival greatly improves. Inova Heart and Vascular Institute has the expertise and experience to treat this this complex condition.

Aortic Dissection Patient Story

A Terrifying Health Scare: NBC’s “TODAY” Show Features Inova Doctor and Grateful Patient

There are two types of aortic dissections:
  • Type A: This is the more common and dangerous 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.  This tear may extend into the abdomen.
  • Type B: This type involves a tear in the descending aorta only, which also may extend into the abdomen

What are the causes of aortic dissection?

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
  • Trauma

What are the symptoms of aortic dissection?

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

  • Sudden severe chest or upper back pain, often described as a tearing, ripping or shearing sensation, that radiates down the back
  • Loss of consciousness (fainting)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sudden onset of leg pain with compromised blood flow

Which diagnostic tests are ordered for aortic dissection?

When an aortic dissection is suspected, it is usually an emergency condition requiring prompt diagnosis and testing. Specific tests your vascular surgeon may order include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Echocardiogram