Aortic dissection is a serious life-threatening condition in which a tear occurs in the inner layer of the aorta, which is the body’s main artery.
The aorta is the one that delivers oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. A tear in the main artery requires immediate recognition and early medical treatment.
First aid intervention is also necessary.
What is aortic dissection?
The estimates show that three to four people per 100,000 individuals experience aortic dissection every year, and are highly associated with high mortality.
The serious condition starts as a tear in the aortic wall, causing the main artery of the body to split. If left without treatment, the tear may continue to become worse and may cause ripping in the outer layer of the aorta. Continuous damage may result in the blood escaping the artery.
The are several causes of aortic disease, and others may be due to an underlying vulnerability that can be inherited. One of which is the weakening of the aortic wall from the stress of constant high blood pressure, resulting in tears and dissection.
A leakage in the aorta means less oxygen supply for vital organs such as the brain, kidneys, and the heart which can be fatal.
More than 40% of people who suffer from aortic dissection die almost instantly. Without treatment, the chances of fatality increase by three to four percent every minute passed.
Types of Aortic Dissection
There are two types of aortic dissection – Type A and B.
Type A dissections usually start within the ascending aorta (the upper part). This requires immediate treatment as the complications from an acute dissection are often life-threatening.
The most common concern in type A dissection is heart attacks due to coronary artery injuries and acute failure of the aortic valve. All of these prevent the blood from being pumped properly and cause the sac surrounding the heart to fill with blood.
On the other hand, Type B dissections are tears that occur in the lower aorta, next to the main arteries to the brain and arms. This type can be equally fatal with no immediate treatment in place.
The first step of treatment in Type B dissection is to make sure that the patient’s blood pressure is controlled and within normal range. If surgery may become an option, the dissection will then be more commonly repaired using a stent.
The symptoms of aortic dissection have shared similarities with other heart conditions, such as heart attack.
The clear signs of this condition include
- Sudden, severe pain in the chest or upper back area (often described as a tearing or ripping sensation)
- Severe stomach pain
- Loss of consciousness
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
- Similar stroke symptoms (vision problems, difficulty speaking, general weakness, loss of movement (paralysis) on one side of the body)
- Weak pulse
- Leg pain or difficulty walking
For any severe pain and developing symptoms, early medical treatment is necessary.
First Aid Treatment
Any obvious symptoms of aortic dissection, call triple zero (000). In some cases, the person may need immediate surgery to repair the damaged part of the aorta.
If the dissection is not severe or not life-threatening, the person will not need immediate surgery but will likely need close monitoring.
There are a few things you can do to help manage the condition, including:
- Controlling and managing blood pressure
- Quit smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a balanced diet
- Regular physical activities
- Attending follow up appointments with a cardiologist
- Cardiac rehabilitation after the surgery
Many people with aortic dissection experience a traumatic, life-threatening event that can bring a significant impact on their physical and mental health.
Having enough skill and knowledge to recognise and respond to this condition is important in preventing deaths and achieving the best possible outcome.
Consider getting a first aid course and learn how to save the lives of people having an aortic dissection emergency.