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Go immediately to the emergency room if you experience sudden, tearing chest pains that radiate through the shoulders and into the back, and sometimes are accompanied with a cold sweat.
Acute aortic dissection is an uncommon and often lethal cause of chest pain, the mortality rate is 35 percent at 24 hours, 50 percent at 48 hours and 80 percent within 2 weeks.
* Diagnosis & Treatment of Diseases of the Aorta, Hurst’s The Heart, 10th Edition

Aortic Dissection Prevention

The best way to prevent an aortic dissection is to keep your blood pressure under control and properly treat atherosclerosis. Drugs such as angiotensin II receptor blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and beta blockers may reduce the likelihood of dissection.

Help Reduce Your Risk of Aortic Dissection

You may lower your chances of developing an aortic dissection through several methods:

  • Control your blood pressure
  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy diet, controlling calories, monitoring cholesterol intake and being screened for diabetes.
  • Wear a seatbelt and take other safety precautions
  • Understand your personal and family medical history. If your family has a history of aortic dissection, you and your WellStar physician should discuss screening.

Tests and Screenings for Aortic Dissection

Detecting an aortic dissection can be tricky because most of the symptoms mirror other health problems, particularly those of the heart. Although tearing, radiating chest pain and blood pressure differences between the right and left arms often indicate an aortic dissection, sensitive imaging techniques are required to establish a firm diagnosis. These procedures include:

  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan with a dye. CT scans generate X-rays to produce cross-sectional images of the body. Often, an iodine-based contrast injected via IV make the heart, aorta and other blood vessels easily visible on the scans.
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA). An MRA is a specific use of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to look at blood vessels.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE). A TEE is a special type of echocardiogram in which an ultrasound probe is inserted into the esophagus. Because of the probe’s proximity to the heart and the aorta, it provides a clearer picture of your heart than with a regular echocardiogram performed across the chest wall.