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Aortic Aneurysm & Aortic Dissection

  • What is Aortic Aneurysm and Aortic Dissection?

    The aorta is the biggest artery in the body. It starts from the heart and supplies blood to the whole body through branches of arteries. Disease in the aorta can lead to abnormal narrowing and dilation (swelling) of the arteries. These diseases include aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection.

    Aortic aneurysm refers to the abnormal dilation of the aorta. The dilation of the aorta’s wall may cause the aorta to burst, which can then lead to massive internal bleeding and severe pain.

    Aortic dissection refers to a tearing in the wall of the aorta. The dissection causes the layers of the wall of the aorta to come apart as blood is flowing between the layers. Rapid blood loss can occur if the aorta is completely torn apart by the dissection. This presents a medical emergency.

  • These conditions are commonly linked with uncontrolled high blood pressure or any of the following conditions that lead to the weakening of the blood vessels wall:

    • Chronic high blood pressure, which affects the aortic tissue and makes it more prone to tearing
    • Congenital conditions (conditions that you are born with) that weaken and dilate the aorta’s wall (including Mafran’s syndrome and bicuspid aortic valve)
    • In rare instances, motor vehicle accidents might lead to aortic dissections due to traumatic injury to the chest.
    • Other potential causes include:
      1. Age
      2. Drug use
      3. Gender (being male),
      4. Pregnancy
    • Most aortic aneurysms have no symptoms
    • Symptoms of aortic dissection include:
      1. Abdominal pain
      2. Fainting
      3. Intense ripping pain in your chest or upper back
      4. Numb or cold extremities
      5. Stroke
      6. Sweating
  • Aortic aneurysm:

    • If you have no symptoms and your aneurysm is small, your doctor can suggest a “watch-and-wait” approach with regular monitoring of the size of your aneurysm using regular imaging tests
    • If your aneurysm is big enough or if it is growing more than 1cm a year, your doctor may recommend aortic surgery

    Aortic dissection:

    • Oral and intravenous (injected) medications to control your blood pressure and heart rate while the aorta is healing
    • Permanent monitoring of the diameter of the aorta to prevent enlargement or rupture of the aorta
    • If your dissection is affecting the first part of the aorta, your doctor will suggest surgery because heart and brain arteries may be at risk.
  • An aortic dissection can affect the blood supply to various parts of the body, leading to:

    • Damage to the aortic valve (aortic regurgitation)
    • Organ damage (including kidneys, intestines, heart, brain)
    • Stroke, which may lead to paralysis
    • Death
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