Aneurysm refers to an abnormal dilation or bulge in the wall of the aorta; at a certain size (or with certain rate of growth), there is increased risk of rupture which is often fatal.
What is an Aortic Dissection?
Dissection refers to an abnormal tear in the wall of the aorta resulting in separate of the layers of the aortic wall; a sudden tear is an emergency due to possible compromise of organ blood flow, requiring immediate attention.
What are the Symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm?
Symptoms depend on the location and size of the aneurysm, and before reaching a certain size, many grow silently; symptoms may include chest, back, and/or abdominal pain/discomfort.
What are the Symptoms of Aortic Dissection?
Symptoms of aortic dissection similarly depend on the location of the tear and whether or not organ/limb blood flow is compromised, but may include:
• Tearing chest/back/abdominal pain
• Stroke-like symptoms if the tear involves a carotid artery
• Painful and/or cold arm/leg if the tear involves an artery supplying a limb
• Shortness of breath
• Difficulty swallowing
• Fainting, loss of consciousness
• Heavy sweating
How is an Aortic Aneurysm Diagnosed?
Testing for diseases of the aorta includes:
• Abdominal aorta ultrasound
• Echocardiogram (transthoracic or transesophageal)
• CT angiography
• Aortic angiography
• MRA (magnetic resonance angiography)
• Chest x-ray
How is an Aneurysm Treated?
Management of aortic aneurysm depends on the location but often involves placement of endovascular stent grafts (covered stents that exclude the diseased areas of the aorta); however, in some cases, surgery may be required.
Management of aortic dissection depends on the location.
• Dissection involving the ascending aorta is a surgical emergency
• Dissection involving the descending aorta can often be managed medically, though intervention can be required in the event of organ and/or limb compromise