Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD)

What is Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection?

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection is a rare heart condition that affects more women than men. It is considered a life-threatening emergency that requires emergency treatment. The condition involves a rupture in any of the main blood vessels of the heart, resulting in massive bleeding and interruption of the heart’s normal function. It is often mistaken for a common heart attack, but it is more dangerous and requires different treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection?

Since the tear in the blood vessel usually happens quickly and without warning, you can’t rely on symptoms as early indicators of risk. It is also not associated with heart disease or the risk factors for it. Symptoms of a sudden rupture include:

  • Sweating
  • Chest and arm pain
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

These symptoms are the same as those of any other heart attack. When a heart attack happens without secondary risk factors like clogged arteries or diabetes, it’s usually a case of spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Risk factors include hormonal changes such as pregnancy, extreme exercise routines, or genetic predisposition.

How is Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection Treated?

Emergency stent surgery is the most common treatment for life-threatening cases. This stops the bleeding and allows the heart to stabilize function. A full bypass can also help when there is already muscle and blood vessel damage. If the condition is not threatening the heart immediately, it is usually managed with blood pressure control medication and lifestyle changes alone. Only a cardiologist can determine which cases of spontaneous coronary artery dissection require surgery.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
August 21, 2017