Risk factors for aortic dissection include:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension), found in at least two-thirds of all cases
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
  • Weakened and bulging artery (pre-existing aortic aneurysm)
  • An aortic valve defect (bicuspid aortic valve)
  • A narrowing of the aorta you're born with (aortic coarctation)

People with certain genetic diseases are more likely to have an aortic dissection than are people in the general population. These include:

  • Turner's syndrome. High blood pressure, heart problems and a number of other health conditions may result from this disorder.
  • Marfan syndrome. This is a condition in which connective tissue, which supports various structures in the body, is weak. People with this disorder often have a family history of aneurysms of the aorta and other blood vessels. These weak blood vessels are prone to tears (dissection) and rupture easily.
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. This group of connective tissue disorders is characterized by skin that bruises or tears easily, loose joints and fragile blood vessels.
  • Loeys-Dietz syndrome. This is a connective tissue disorder marked by twisted arteries, especially in the neck. People who have Loeys-Dietz syndrome are thought to be at risk for developing aortic dissections and aneurysms.

Other potential risk factors include:

  • Sex. Men have about double the incidence of aortic dissection.
  • Age. The incidence of aortic dissection peaks in the 60s and 70s.
  • Cocaine use. This drug may be a risk factor for aortic dissection because it temporarily raises blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy. Infrequently, aortic dissections occur in otherwise healthy women during pregnancy.
Nov. 11, 2011

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