Key factors to know about aortic dissection

Key factors to know about aortic dissection

An aortic dissection is a major health condition that is caused by a tear in the inner layer of the body’s main artery. When blood rushes through this rupture, the inner and middle layers of the aorta split. If the blood comes out of the aortic wall, then the dissection becomes deadly. This is an uncommon disease that mainly occurs in men in their 60s or 70s. If an aortic dissection is detected early, there are more chances of survival.

Symptoms of aortic dissection
The symptoms of this disease are more or less similar to other heart issues, like a heart attack. Typical warning signs include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe stomach ache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe chest and upper back pain, which is often described as a ripping sensation, or tearing sensation, that spreads to the neck or back
  • Leg pain and difficulty in walking
  • Weak pulse in a single arm or thigh as compared to the other
  • Similar symptoms to those of a heart stroke, like difficulty speaking, vision issues, weakness, or loss of movement on one side of the body, like in the case of paralysis.

Causes of aortic dissection
Aortic dissection arises because of a weakened area forming on the aorta’s wall, which becomes susceptible to tearing. The condition is divided into two groups based on which part of the major blood vessel is affected.

  • Type A
    This is a dangerous type that involves a tear in that part of the aorta where it exits the heart. The rupture can also occur in the upper aorta, which stretches into the abdomen.
  • Type B
    This type involves a tear in the lower aorta that stretches into the abdomen.

Risk factors associated with aortic dissection
Here are some factors that can increase the risk of aortic dissection

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • When the person has a narrow aorta at birth
  • When the artery becomes weak and bulges out
  • When there is an aortic valve defect

Some genetic disorders can also increase the probability of having an aortic dissection:

  • Turner syndrome- This disorder can cause issues like high blood pressure and heart problems.
  • Marfan syndrome
  • In this condition, the connective tissue that supports various structures becomes weak.
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • This is a group of connective tissue disorders that cause loose joints and fragile blood vessels.

Preventive measures
The risk of aortic dissection can be reduced by taking steps to keep your heart healthy.

  • Have a check on your blood pressure
    In case of hypertension, go for a home blood pressure measuring device so that you can monitor your blood pressure regularly.
  • Wear a seat belt
    This can reduce the risk of chest injury in case of an accident.
  • Maintain an ideal BMI
    Follow a low-salt meal plan that contains plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grains.
  • Take support from your doctor
    If you have a family history of aortic dissection, consult a doctor for effective treatment plans. For an aortic aneurysm, find out how often you need monitoring.

Depending upon which part of your aorta is involved, the doctor suggests a treatment.

Use of beta-blockers
This will help lower your blood pressure and heart rate. This treatment option can also be used for type A or type B.

The kind of surgery you will undergo depends on the type. For type A, the surgeon removes the dissected aorta and rebuilds it using a manmade tube known as a graft. The doctor repairs any leaks in the aortic valve, and this is placed in the new graft. In the case of type B, the surgeon uses the same method, but for a more complicated case, a stent is also added. This offers wire mesh support for the aorta. Surgical options include-

  • Graft replacement
  • Endovascular stent-graft repair
  • Hybrid approach

If you have serious chest pain, sudden shortness of breath, or fainting symptoms, you should immediately get in touch with your doctor and get yourself diagnosed. These signs and symptoms are not always related to a problem, but it is always better to consult your doctor. Early treatment can help you save your life. People with acute aortic dissection can have a high death rate. Due to the advancement in technology and science, the prognosis in the chronic phase has become better, but life expectancy for people with aortic dissection has become short. Acute aorta dissection calls for a health emergency that needs immediate surgery. If the condition is not severe, you may not need an operation right away. When you are diagnosed with aortic dissection, you are continuously monitored for your blood pressure. You might also need repeat imaging with MRI and CT to check the condition of your aorta.

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