The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, and it is made up of three layers. An aortic dissection occurs when the innermost layer tears and starts to bleed into the middle layer, causing a separation of the layers of the artery walls. Aortic dissection is a critical condition that must be treated. Some symptoms of an aortic dissection include:
- Severe sharp chest or upper back pain that radiates to the neck or down the back
- Fainting or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden difficulty speaking, loss of vision, weakness or paralysis of one side of your body, similar to a stroke
- Rapid weak pulse
Your doctor may treat an aortic dissection with beta blockers, medications that reduce your heart rate, or medications that lower your blood pressure. These medicines can prevent your aortic dissection from worsening. Your doctor may also insert a stent or graft into your aorta – this stent or graft will replace or support the aortic wall, preventing the layers of your aorta from splitting.