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Aortic dissection


The aorta is a large artery that exits the heart to circulate blood to the rest of the body. Aortic dissection is the tearing of the wall of the aorta, which will create a cavity distended with blood. The aorta consists of several parts: the aortic arch right out of the heart which initially rises into a "U-turn" and then descends, another part located in the thorax called the thoracic aorta, and another located in the abdomen called the abdominal aorta. Dissection of the aorta is a rare phenomenon that can affect all of it or only some of the parts mentioned above. It can lead to the total tearing of the aorta, resulting in death. Aortic dissection is in most cases due to hypertension.


Symptoms of aortic dissection are:
  • very severe pain in the chest, and a sense of pain that crawls down the back;
  • a painful crisis similar to angina;
  • a feeling of imminent death.


The doctor will look for elements that point to a dissection of the abdominal aorta, such as hypertension. Then he will look perform a clinical examination of pulse asymmetry in the limbs, or other signs of complications. In addition, there are different examinations that depend on clinical suspicion such as X-rays, electrocardiograms, a CT scan or MRI, and sometimes an ultrasound.


Medical treatment administered to the patient is primarily used to lower blood pressure. After confirmation of a diagnosis by the examinations mentioned above, the patient may undergo either treatment via catheterization - with the placement of a spring called a stent-, an emergency surgery to close the dissection. It depends entirely on the location and extent of the dissection.


One must be vigilant by eating low salt foods and by regularly monitoring in the case of hypertension, which is the main risk factor for aortic dissection.

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