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Aortic Dissection

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 complex condition.

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?

How is aortic dissection treated?

Aortic dissection is life-threatening and requires immediate treatment.

Our strategy is to identify people who are at high risk for an aortic dissection through screening. We monitor high-risk patients regularly and treat them before complications develop.

Treatment for aortic dissection depends on the type of dissection:

  • For Type A (descending) dissections, traditional open-heart surgery to open the chest and repair or replace the torn aorta is the most common treatment due to the possibility of a heart attack.
  • For Type B (descending) dissections, treatment depends on the circumstances. A chronic dissection might cause an aortic aneurysm, which may require minimally invasive stent grafts or open-heart surgery.

New Minimally Invasive Treatment

Traditionally, some patients could not receive endovascular stent devices as treatment. Since August 2020, Inova has been implanting a new FDA-approved device called the Alto™ Abdominal Stent Graft System, which extends minimally invasive endovascular repair to more patients. 

Learn More

Our Team