A 22-year-old young man suddenly developed severe chest pain and breathing difficulty. He was rushed to hospital and was diagnosed with a serious life-threatening condition, called Aortic Dissection. Aortic Dissection affects the large blood vessel coming out of the heart called, the Aorta.
Aortic Dissection is an emergency situation and requires immediate medical intervention as tear can compromise blood supply to vital organs like heart, brain, spinal cord, kidney and liver. If not recognized and treated immediately, the tear will go through blood vessel and it is unlikely the patient will survive. 50% untreated patients with Aortic tear die within 48 hrs.
Aortic diseases are to a great extent a disease of the elderly. However, sometimes it strikes young population as well, as seen in the case of this young man. It can happen due to uncontrolled blood pressure, trauma to chest and hereditary genetic disorders like Marfan’s Syndrome (a disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue).
Timely diagnosis (Echocardiogram, CT scan) and expertise in surgical repair can save life of many patients in these situations. Depending on location of tear in the Aorta it is classified into Type A or Type B. Patients with Type A tear should be wheeled into operation room as soon as possible. The surgery could take anywhere between 8-12 hrs. Some of these patients might also require replacement of arteries. It is to be noted that surgery on torn Aorta carries high risks and can lead to complications like brain stroke, organ failure and death.
Aortic diseases account for a significant cardiovascular morbidity and mortality worldwide. The incidence of aortic diseases in India is expected to rise with the increasing age of the population. Diagnostic evaluation of aortic disorders has improved in the last two decades, allowing earlier diagnosis and therapeutic intervention. Timely intervention on the part of this young man resulted in his survival.
Aortic Dissection survivors can lead near normal life and are usually advised to avoid smoking, and not to participate in intense sports like weightlifting etc. These patients are also on lifelong medication and they require regular follow up with CT scan. Enquiry into patient’s family history to identify genetic disorder is recommended.
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