Aortic Dissection


The symptoms of aortic dissection can mimic a heart attack or stroke and include the following:

  • Sudden angina (chest pain), often described as a tearing sensation or pain in the upper back
  • Sudden dizziness or fainting
  • Sudden nausea or vomiting
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden difficulty in speaking, vision loss, or weakness or paralysis on one side

Doctors diagnose aortic dissection based on symptoms of chest pain, a murmur in the chest or other unusual sounds, a visibly wider aorta on a chest X-ray, and blood pressure differences between the left and right arms or between the arms and legs.

The diagnosis will be confirmed through the use of more sophisticated imaging techniques, such as the following:

  • A computerized tomography (CT) scan
  • A specialized echocardiogram called a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
  • A magnetic resonance angiogram, which looks specifically at your blood vessels