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Clinical, Diagnostic, and Management Perspectives of Aortic Dissection*

Ijaz A. Khan, MD, FCCP; Chandra K. Nair, MD, FCCP
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*From the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, NB.

Correspondence to: Ijaz A. Khan, MD, FCCP, Creighton University Cardiac Center, 3006 Webster St, Omaha, NE 68131-2044; e-mail: ikhan@cardiac.creighton.edu



Chest. 2002;122(1):311-328. doi:10.1378/chest.122.1.311
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The incidence of aortic dissection ranges from 5 to 30 cases per million people per year, depending on the prevalence of risk factors in the study population. Although the disease is uncommon, its outcome is frequently fatal, and many patients with aortic dissection die before presentation to the hospital or prior to diagnosis. While pain is the most common symptom of aortic dissection, more than one-third of patients may develop a myriad of symptoms secondary to the involvement of the organ systems. Physical findings may be absent or, if present, could be suggestive of a diverse range of other conditions. Keeping a high clinical index of suspicion is mandatory for the accurate and rapid diagnosis of aortic dissection. CT scanning, MRI, and transesophageal echocardiography are all fairly accurate modalities that are used to diagnose aortic dissection, but each is fraught with certain limitations. The choice of the diagnostic modality depends, to a great extent, on the availability and expertise at the given institution. The management of aortic dissection has consisted of aggressive antihypertensive treatment, when associated with systemic hypertension, and surgery. Recently, endovascular stent placement has been used for the treatment of aortic dissection in select patient populations, but the experience is limited. The technique could be an option for patients who are poor surgical candidates, or in whom the risk of complications is gravely high, especially so in the patients with distal dissections. The clinical, diagnostic, and management perspectives on aortic dissection and its variants, aortic intramural hematoma and atherosclerotic aortic ulcer, are reviewed.

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