Aortic Dissection - Symptoms

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What were the symptoms of your aortic dissection?

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What are the signs and symptoms of aortic dissection?

  • Pain is the most common symptom of aortic dissection and is often described as tearing or ripping and often begins suddenly. If the aortic dissection occurs in the chest, the pain is usually centered in the chest and radiates directly into the upper back. If the dissection occurs in the abdominal aorta, the pain may occur in the mid back or low back and radiate to the flanks.
  • There may be associated nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, and weakness.
  • The patient may pass out (syncope).
  • Other symptoms may be related to the location of the dissection within the aorta and whether it affects some of the branch arteries and occludes their blood supply. For example, if an artery that supplies blood to the brain is involved, there may be signs of stroke. Or if the dissection affects the anterior spinal artery and blood supply to the spinal cord, the patient may present with paraplegia.
  • The coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart begin at the origin of the aorta at the aortic valve. If the coronary arteries are involved, the aortic dissection may cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction) as its presenting symptom.
  • The patient may present with congestive heart failure with fluid building up in the lungs. If the aortic dissection involves the aortic valve and causes it to fail, blood flows back into the heart with each beat and causes blood flow to back up into the lungs.
  • The pain of aortic dissection can be confused with that of heart attack, but can sometimes be distinguished because of its sudden onset, potentially normal electrocardiogram, and abnormal findings on chest X-ray.
  • The pain of an abdominal aortic dissection can be confused with the pain caused by a kidney stone. The diagnosis is made when a CT scan looking for the kidney stone reveals an aneurysm instead.
  • The patient may also have a sense of impending doom.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: Tim27407, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: January 14

Late September 2013 I had just finished my lunch after outdoor chores. Rising from my couch with a muffled burp, I felt something "give" in my chest with an unusual vibration feeling from the burp. It was unmistakable, something had happened. Not much pain, just immediate and persistent heartburn radiating upward from the left-center area of my chest. I took two aspirin and drove to the local fire department, still unsure if my condition warranted an ambulance call. My blood pressure was high, 200 over 95 or so. They took me to the emergency room, 8 hours later I was diagnosed with ascending aortic dissection by CT scan. I am 235 lb 5'8" ex-smoker (quit in '95) with history of hypertension, controlled with beta blockers. Ten hours of emergency surgery, followed by pulmonary embolism 3 days later, tamponade caused pulseless EKG, more surgery, played golf with all my dead relatives, woke up another 3 days later with a whole new outlook on life. I am making good progress, walking or riding exercise bike most days, doing well with home rehab and light office work.

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Comment from: Catherine D., 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: November 18

I was getting dressed to go to work. I felt big pressure in my chest, and laid across the bed. I broke into a cold sweat, and thought, 'this is bad'. I went to the bathroom to get an aspirin, and then to the kitchen to get water to wash the aspirin down. But I couldn't lift my arms. I decided it was best to get really close to the floor before I fell. I crawled to the phone to call 911. I don't remember if I was still feeling pressure at that point.

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