Munson Health
Aortic Dissection

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by Polsdorfer R


Elevated blood pressure and a diseased aorta are the principal causes, usually due to atherosclerosis . Other congenital and acquired afflictions of the aorta also increase the chances of dissection.


The usual case of aortic dissection appears in the emergency department as a sudden catastrophic event. Your emergency physician will ask about your symptoms and medical history, perform a physical exam, and then rapidly proceed with any of several possible imaging studies.
Tests may include the following:
  • Chest x-ray —a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body
  • Echocardiogram —a test that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart
  • CT scan —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body
  • MRI scan —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body
  • Aortography—x-rays taken after dye is injected into the aorta through a surgically placed catheter


American Academy of Family Physicians

American Heart Association



The College of Family Physicians of Canada



Isselbacher K, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 14th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1998.

The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy website. Available at: . Accessed July 2005.

Mukherjee D, Eagle KA. Aortic dissection–an update. Curr Probl Cardiol . 2005 Jun;30(6):287-325.


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