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Aortic Dissection Symptoms

Aortic Dissection is more common than you think. It causes 3,000 deaths a year in the UK - more than road traffic accidents. Our patient charity is a driving force in efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment

Aortic Dissection Symptoms

Aortic dissection occurs when an injury to the innermost layer of the aorta allows blood to flow between the layers of the aortic wall, forcing the layers apart, as shown in the diagram above. 


  • In most cases, this is associated with a sudden onset of severe chest or back pain, often described as "tearing" in character. Also, vomiting, sweating, and lightheadedness may occur.
  • Other symptoms may result from decreased blood supply to other organs, such as stroke, lower extremity ischemia, or mesenteric ischemia.

Aortic dissection can quickly lead to death from insufficient blood flow to the heart or complete rupture of the aorta.

Key to the prevention of aortic dissection is blood pressure control and smoking cessation.

See our THINK AORTA campaign website for up-to-date, detailed diagnostic information and educational resources endorsed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of Radiologists, the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery and the Vascular Society.

Visit our Clinical Guidelines page for all the current clinical guidelines on Aortic Dissection.

Download our handbook Aortic Dissection: The Patient Guide for yourself and order free copies to give to your patients.