“In many cases, the more common forms of aortic dissections are confused for heart attacks since the symptoms are similar—including severe chest, back or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, pain in the arms or legs, weakness or heavy sweating,” said Pedro Catarino, MD, director of Aortic Surgery in the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the Smidt Heart Institute. “It is imperative patients be diagnosed correctly, and quickly, as the death rate for aortic dissections increases 1% every hour the diagnosis and surgical repair are delayed.”
Risk factors for the condition include aneurysms, a personal or family history of thoracic disease, bicuspid aortic valve disease, and certain genetic syndromes, including Marfan syndrome, Loeys-Dietz syndrome, vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Turner syndrome.
“Several lifestyle and trauma-related conditions can trigger aortic dissections,” said Catarino. “These triggers can include extreme straining associated with bodybuilding, illicit drug abuse, poorly controlled high blood pressure or discontinuing necessary blood pressure medications.”
Another rare but possible trigger for aortic dissection is pregnancy, especially for women with aortic aneurysms and connective tissue disorders. These women are at higher risk of aortic dissection during late pregnancy and delivery and should be carefully monitored by a cardiovascular specialist.
“Aortic dissections and aortic aneurysms are serious conditions with no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment” said Azizzadeh. “By seeking emergent care immediately and being cared for by an experienced team, lives can be saved. That is our ultimate hope—to get patients like Thomas back to their lives, healthier than when they first walked through our doors.”Back to HCB News