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Thoracic Aortic Dissection

Understanding Aortic Dissection

The aortic wall is made up of three layers of tissue. An aortic dissection is typically a sudden event that begins with a tear in the inner layer of the aortic wall, usually in the thoracic aorta. It is often associated with severe back pain, sometimes described as a “tearing” feeling. When a dissection occurs, blood is channeled between the layers of the wall of the aorta. The dissection may reduce blood supply to critical organs like the heart, brain, spinal cord, intestines, kidneys and legs. If the thin aortic wall tears, a rupture occurs.

Aortic dissection can be a life-threatening emergency. The Barnes-Jewish & Washington University Heart & Vascular Center offers 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week services for immediate evaluation and treatment of dissection patients. Our vascular specialists are skilled in the latest techniques to treat all patients including those who have multiple complex medical problems.

Treating Aortic Dissection

The treatment of acute and chronic aortic dissection requires a multi-specialty team of experienced physicians to manage this complex life-threatening problem. The Heart & Vascular Center is the largest and only regional center that offers all diagnostic and therapeutic options for patients with aortic dissections and its associated complications. The treatment of these patients includes aggressive control of high blood pressure and associated cardiac conditions. Repair of the dissection may include open aortic repair or endovascular repair and may also require other surgical procedures to keep adequate blood flowing to vital organs. The physicians at the Heart and Vascular Canter have the largest regional experience treating these patients and can provide care with the latest techniques and devices to obtain excellent results with this challenging group of patients.

To make an appointment with a Washington University heart or vascular specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.