Aortic dissection is a serious heart condition, primarily affecting men in the age range of 60 to 90. Aortic dissection is a condition that requires immediate medical attention, although fortunately, the aortic dissection survival rate is quite high, as long as the correct aftercare is carried out and lifestyle changes are made.
The most common symptoms of aortic dissection include:
Other symptoms that may be confused with a stroke include loss of speech, temporary blindness, and weakness or complete paralysis of one side of the body. A weakness of the pulse in one arm only may also be noted.
Aortic dissection happens in an area of the aortic wall that has become weakened. High blood pressure can cause aortic dissection, making it more susceptible to tearing. Some genetic conditions, such as Marfan syndrome, can also cause aortic dissection.
Type ‘A’ aortic dissection is the more common and most dangerous type and involves damage to the aorta where it leaves the heart or which may extend into the abdomen. Type ‘B’ aortic dissection happens when there is a tear in the lower aorta only and may also extend into the abdomen.
There are a number of causes of aortic dissection including:
Statistics show that men are twice as likely to suffer from aortic dissection as women and its incidence increases when you reach your 60s and 80s. Very strenuous weightlifting or other forms of training that significantly raise the blood pressure can also increase the risk of aortic dissection.
Aortic dissection is treated surgically by sealing up the false lumen. Once this has been completed, the body will absorb any leaked blood and the lumen will return to its normal size.
If you have suffered an aortic dissection, you will need to receive life-long drug therapy to reduce your blood pressure and prevent further dissections.
‘Beta blockers’ are the preferred drug for this purpose as they block the action of adrenalin while widening the arteries. This action allows easier blood flow through the heart, reducing the force of the heart’s contraction and therefore decreasing the patient’s overall blood pressure. This combination of effects reduces the pressure on the aorta wall, reducing the risk of aortic dissection.
Although you will be able to resume a normal life, including undertaking light aerobic exercise, more strenuous workouts and activities will not be advised by your doctor.
With appropriate medical treatment and lifestyle changes, patients who suffered an aortic dissection involving the descending aorta can expect long-term survival. In such cases 60 to 80% of sufferers have a four to five-year survival rate, and 40 to 45% may survive for 10 years or more.
In cases where the dissection has involved the ascending aorta survival rates following surgery are 91 to 96% at one to three years, and a five to 10-year survival rate could be expected at 68 to 52%.
Although aortic dissection is a very serious heart condition, survival rates are good as long as the condition is recognized and treated promptly. A good long-term outcome can be expected provided lifestyle changes are adopted, blood pressure is controlled, and very strenuous exercise is not undertaken.