DefinitionAortic dissection occurs when the layers of the aorta separate. The aorta is the main artery leading from the heart. Arterial walls have 3 layers. A tear in an inner layer can admit blood under pressure that works its way between layers, causing the layers to dissect apart or separate. This process can squeeze off the main channel so that blood cannot get through the main aorta or any of its branches. This is a life-threatening event since it can cause stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, or death due to impaired blood flow to a number of vital organs. The enlarging mass of misdirected blood can also compromise nearby structures, such as the airways, lungs, or heart. It may also rupture with catastrophic bleeding.
|Heart and Main Vessels|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
CausesAortic dissection is usually caused by elevated high blood pressure or a diseased aorta. This usually is the result of atherosclerosis.
Risk FactorsFactors that may increase your chance of aortic dissection include:
- Chest injury or surgical mishap
- Hereditary connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or Marfans syndrome
- Late pregnancy
- High cholesterol
- Untreated, late stage syphilis
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