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An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which a tear develops in the inner layer of the aorta, the large blood vessel branching off the heart. Blood surges through this tear into the middle layer of the aorta, causing the inner and middle layers to separate (dissect). If the blood-filled channel ruptures through the outside aortic wall, aortic dissection is often fatal.

Aortic dissection, also called dissecting aneurysm, is relatively uncommon. Anyone can develop the condition, but it most frequently occurs in men between 60 and 70 years of age. Symptoms of aortic dissection may mimic those of other diseases, often leading to delays in diagnosis. However, when an aortic dissection is detected early and treated promptly, your chance of survival greatly improves.

Nov. 11, 2011