Aortic Dissection

At the University of Maryland Heart and Vascular Center, our aortic disease specialists care for all types of aortic problems, including aortic dissection, a serious condition.

At our Center for Aortic Disease, our physicians treat a high volume of patients with aortic disease every year, giving us a superior level of experience. No matter how complex your condition is, we have the resources and expertise to help you.

What is Aortic Dissection?

Your aorta is your body’s largest blood vessel. Aortic dissection occurs when the inner layer of the aorta tears. Blood flows through the tear, causing the inner and middle aortic layers to separate, or dissect. Aortic dissection is relatively uncommon. It is a serious, even life-threatening condition. However, treatment is often successful when we detect it early.

Causes of Aortic Dissection

Causes of aortic dissection include:

  • High blood pressure, which places stress on the aortic tissue, making it more susceptible to tearing. Learn more about high blood pressure
  • Congenital heart diseases that are associated with a weakened and enlarged aorta (Marfan syndrome or bicuspid aortic valve). We offer testing for family members to determine if they carry the gene for congenital heart conditions. Learn more about cardiogenetic testing.

Symptoms of Aortic Dissection

The symptoms of aortic dissection are similar to those of other heart disease. It is important to receive treatment as soon as possible. If you experience any type of chest pain, seek medical attention immediately.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden severe chest or upper back pain

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Difficulty speaking, vision problems, weakness or paralysis on one side of the body (similar to stroke symptoms)

Diagnosing Aortic Dissection

Aortic dissection can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to many other heart conditions. At the University of Maryland Heart Center, we have expert team who focus exclusively on aortic disease. This level of specialization enables us to diagnose our patients quickly and accurately. We use noninvasive imaging scans to get a clear picture of your heart and aorta.

Learn more about cardiac diagnosis.

Treating Aortic Dissection

Surgery for aortic dissection involves removing the dissected aorta and reconstructing it with a synthetic tube called a graft. We are committed to using the least invasive, most effective procedure. Whenever possible, we use an endovascular approach rather than an open surgery. We may opt for a hybrid approach, where we combine an endograft with traditional surgery. Learn more about endovascular surgery.

At our Center for Aortic Disease, our team cares for patients with complex or difficult-to-treat aortic problems, many of whom were turned down for treatment at other centers. No matter how routine or complicated your condition is, we have the resources and capabilities to treat you effectively. Our team will determine the approach that offers you the most optimal outcome. Learn more about treatment for aortic dissection and other aortic diseases at our Center for Aortic Disease.


For more information or to make an appointment, please call 1-866-408-6885.

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