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Heart Disease Health Center

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Aortic Dissection - Topic Overview

What are the symptoms of aortic dissection? continued...

Other symptoms may include:

  • Numbness and the inability to move the legs.
  • Lack of pulse.
  • Swelling.
  • Pale skin.

If you experience these symptoms, you should call 911 or other emergency services immediately.

Do not drive yourself as time is important and stress and movement should be reduced to a minimum. Do not try to take pain medicine or heart medicine. Taking aspirin with aortic dissections can be fatal.

If you witness a person become unconscious, call 911 or other emergency services and start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The emergency operator can coach you on how to perform CPR.

How is aortic dissection diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, medical history, lifestyle, and family medical history and do a physical exam. He or she may ask if you have been hit hard in the chest or been in an automobile accident. Several specialists may see you.

Physical exam

Your doctor will listen to your heart sounds with a stethoscope, take your pulse and evaluate your circulation, and evaluate your neurological status (nerve and brain function). As the symptoms of aortic dissection mimic many other conditions, you may need several tests.


If you have an aortic dissection, you may need:

How is aortic dissection treated?

The treatment of aortic dissection depends in part on where the dissection is located:

  • Dissections involving the aorta where it goes up from the heart (with or without the arch) are known as type A dissections and are typically treated with surgery.
  • Dissections involving the rest of the aorta are known as type B dissections. If there are no complications, type B dissections are typically treated with medicines.
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