Aortic Dissection

What is Aortic Dissection?

Aortic dissection is the most common catastrophe affecting the aorta. The aorta is the largest artery of the body through which blood leaves the heart to deliver oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. It occurs in about 24 people per million each year in the U.S. It is caused when the inner layer of the aortic wall tears and then peels or separates away from the next layer of the aorta. This creates two channels; the original aortic channel for blood flow (the true lumen) is still present while the peeling away of the outer layer in the dissection creates a new additional flow channel (the false lumen).

This double-barrel flow pattern in the dissected aorta can cause serious problems upstream or downstream from the tear. The dissection or separation can result in a significant decrease in blood flow to various organs and tissues supplied by the involved branches. Branches that may be affected include the kidney (renal) arteries, the gut (mesenteric) arteries, the arteries to the brain, and the arteries to the arms or legs. In addition, the tear may compromise blood flow to the heart causing a heart attack and in some cases can result in internal bleeding around the heart, causing loss of consciousness or death. Aortic dissection is a very serious, life-threatening disorder that requires immediate medical attention.