Aortic Dissection: What It is and What Causes it

Aortic dissection is a tear that requires immediate intervention. Here are the symptoms and some possible strategies for prevention. 
Aortic Dissection: What It is and What Causes it

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Aortic dissection is considered a medical emergency that requires immediate surgical intervention. The reason it’s so important to treat it as soon as possible is the high mortality rate. If you want to know more about the symptoms, causes, and prevention of aortic dissection, keep reading.

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Aortic dissection

You’ve probably never heard this term before. However, aortic dissections are becoming more and more common.

Therefore, it’s vitally important to know what exactly an aortic dissection is, its causes and symptoms, as well as some methods to prevent it in the first place.

Aortic dissection is a tear that occurs in the aorta. This exposes the middle layer of the artery to the blood flow flowing through it. The result is reduced blood flow or the aorta ends up breaking.

Both possible results put the patient’s life at risk. Above all, if the aorta is broken, the chances of the patient dying are quite high. Therefore, it is important to identify your symptoms and see a doctor as soon as possible.

Aortic dissection chest pain

Intense pain in the chest area may indicate that you are experiencing an aortic dissection.


Knowing how to identify the symptoms of aortic dissection is essential so you can see a doctor and receive a correct diagnosis as soon as possible. Below are some symptoms that you should pay special attention to:

  • Severe, sharp and stabbing pain that in your chest or under your breastbone.
  • Pale skin and weak pulse.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness accompanied by nausea and sweating.

These symptoms can make you think that you are having a heart attack. However, when experiencing these symptoms, is very important that you go to the hospital emergency department immediately. Strong pain in the chest or sternum area may indicate that the aorta has ruptured, so you must act as quickly as possible.


The causes that can lead a person to experience aortic dissection can vary quite a bit. Below are some possible causes:

  • Degeneration of the middle layer: In this case, the vascular wall weakens. This could be due to atherosclerosis, for example. Then, the aortic wall thins and dilates, increasing the chances of a dissection.
  • Arteritis: This is inflammation that causes the narrowing of the arteries, preventing blood from flowing properly.
  • Valvulopathies: In this case, valves are damaged due to aging, trauma or infections, which causes them to weaken and run the risk of breaking.
aortic dissection artery vessels

These are some possible reasons why this condition develops.

That being said, is there any way to prevent it from happening?

The answer is yes and that’s why it’s important to know how you can help reduce the chances of suffering from this condition.

How to prevent aortic dissection

There is only one possible treatment for this condition, and that’s surgery. Therefore, the best way to avoid going through this is to take preventative measures.

To do this, the best thing you can do if you’re suffering from valvulopathy, arteritis, or some related problem is to get frequent medical check-ups. It will also be very important to maintain proper blood pressure.

If you develop a condition that weakens the arteries or puts you at risk for aortic dissection, you must ask your doctor what you can do to prevent these unpleasant and possibly fatal consequences. Your healthcare provider will give you some personalized options that will be of great help.

As you can see, everyone must know about this type of arterial tear that can be fatal. It’s also essential to be aware of the importance of frequent check-ups. Additionally, if you and your healthcare provider feel that you might be at risk, you need to take much stricter preventative measures.

Did you know about aortic dissection before?

If you have suffered from any of the diseases or conditions mentioned, your chest hurts, and you have difficulty breathing, go to the hospital emergency room as soon as possible. Rapid intervention in these situations is essential for survival.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Pachar, J.V., Hidalgo, J.A., Aguirre, V.A., Alvarado, O.L., & Santos, M.. (2010). Aneurisma de arco aórtico secundario a degeneración de la media: A propósito de un caso de muerte súbita juvenil. Cuadernos de Medicina Forense16(3), 161-165. Recuperado en 26 de abril de 2019, de
  • Romero Requena, J.M., Bueno Jiménez, C., Bureo Dacal, P., & Pérez Miranda, M.. (2003). Disección de aorta: a propósito de dos casos. Anales de Medicina Interna20(3), 59-60. Recuperado en 26 de abril de 2019, de

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.