Aortic Dissection

An aortic dissection is a tear in the wall of the aorta – the major blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other vital organs.

The aortic wall is made up of three layers of tissue. When a tear occurs in the innermost layer, blood flows between the layers, separating them. This separation causes the aortic wall to weaken and potentially rupture. While aortic dissection is rare, it can be a life-threatening emergency.

Surgeons in the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Cooper University Health Care quickly provide an accurate diagnosis of aortic dissection, followed by comprehensive and compassionate treatment. We are one of the few centers in the nation to offer thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR). This minimally invasive procedure results in less pain and a faster recovery time.

Why Choose Us to Treat Aortic Dissection?

Our vascular and endovascular surgeons are internationally recognized for their ability to repair aortic dissection. We determine the best approach for your unique situation, whether this is through open surgery or a minimally invasive procedure.

Other program highlights include:

  • A rapid and accurate diagnosis: Our doctors diagnose aortic dissection quickly so you receive treatment as soon as possible. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, doctors use imaging tests, such as:
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This test uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce detailed pictures of the body.
    • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): This diagnostic procedure uses sound waves to create real-time images of the thoracic aorta and heart. We perform a TEE by inserting a specialized probe down the esophagus. This probe provides clear images of the thoracic aorta because the sound waves do not have to pass through skin, muscle, or bone.
  • Innovative treatment: Once diagnosed, aortic dissection requires immediate intervention. We provide a full range of treatments, including:
    • Surgery: This is often the best treatment if the tear occurs in the ascending aorta, or the portion of the aorta that travels upward after leaving the heart. In addition to open surgery, we also offer TEVAR, an innovative new approach to treating aortic dissection. Learn more about aortic dissection repair.
    • Medication: If the tear occurs in the descending aorta, the portion of the aorta that travels downward through the abdomen, medication may help. Blood pressure medications and other prescriptions may prevent the condition from worsening.

Aortic Dissection Risk Factors

Doctors have yet to identify the cause of aortic dissection. However, several risk factors are associated with the condition, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and Turner's syndrome
  • Cystic medial necrosis, a degenerative disease of the aortic wall
  • Aortitis, inflammation of the aorta
  • Atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries
  • Existing thoracic aneurysm, or a weakening in the thoracic aorta
  • Bicuspid aortic valve, in which the aortic valve – which is the valve between the left ventricle of the heart and the aorta – has two flaps instead of three
  • Physical trauma
  • Narrowing of the aorta
  • Hypervolemia, or excess fluid in the blood

Aortic Dissection Symptoms

The most common symptom of aortic dissection is severe, constant chest pain, with or without upper back pain. Patients sometimes describe the pain as a “ripping” or “tearing.” The pain moves from one place to another, according to the direction and extent of the dissection.

Severe internal bleeding, blood clots, and shock can also occur with an aortic dissection. In some cases, blood clots can cut off oxygen and restrict blood flow, resulting in loss of life or limb.

Contact Us

To learn more about services available in the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 856.342.2151.

Refer a Patient

If you are a doctor who wants to refer a patient to the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, please call 856.968.7067.