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Management of acute aortic dissection

Authors
James H Black, III, MD
Warren J Manning, MD
Section Editors
Emile R Mohler III, MD
Gabriel S Aldea, MD
Edward Verrier, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS

INTRODUCTION

Thoracic aortic dissection is usually suspected clinically from the history and physical examination when a patient presents with severe, sharp, or "tearing" anterior chest pain (in ascending aortic dissection) or posterior chest or back pain (arch or descending aortic dissection). This diagnosis can be easily overlooked among patients with acute chest pain, and a high index of suspicion is needed to obtain a timely diagnosis such that appropriate initial therapy can be instituted promptly. Advances in imaging and better awareness have improved the diagnosis, which is confirmed using advanced cardiovascular imaging.

The DeBakey and the Stanford (Daily) systems are used to classify aortic dissection (figure 1) [1,2]. The Stanford system, which is more widely used, classifies dissections that involve the ascending aorta as type A, regardless of the site of the primary intimal tear; all other dissections are classified as type B.

The goals of early management of aortic dissection are to control pain and limit the extent of the dissection using anti-impulse therapy, which typically involves administration of beta blockers. Timing of intervention differs for ascending (type A) and descending (type B) thoracic aortic dissection, and thus, early determination of the extent of dissection is important.

The management of acute aortic dissection will be reviewed here. The recommendations are generally in agreement with multidisciplinary cardiovascular guidelines [3-5]. The clinical evaluation and diagnosis of aortic dissection are reviewed separately. Management of other acute aortic syndromes is discussed separately. (See "Clinical features and diagnosis of acute aortic dissection" and "Overview of acute aortic syndromes" and "Overview of acute aortic syndromes", section on 'Definition and pathophysiology'.)

ACUTE MEDICAL MANAGEMENT

Acute medical management of acute aortic syndromes including aortic dissection involves controlling pain, and providing anti-impulse therapy in the form of blood pressure lowering and decreasing the velocity of left ventricular contraction, to decrease aortic shear stress and minimize the tendency for the dissection to propagate. Medications and dosing used in acute aortic dissection are similar to other acute aortic syndromes and are reviewed separately. (See "Overview of acute aortic syndromes", section on 'Acute medical management'.)

                         

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Literature review current through: May 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 09, 2017.
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