Aortic dissection is a condition where the main artery that oxygenated blood uses to exit the heart to other tissues around the body becomes torn. The aorta must be strong due to the highly pressurized blood that flows directly from the heart. This strength is achieved with three tissue layers in the aortic wall. An aortic dissection starts with the innermost layer becoming weak. This weak inner layer tears and that tear progressively becomes larger over time. Blood can then move in between the inner and middle layer of the aortic wall. This mechanism causes blood to pool in this area and stops it from flowing out to other body parts effectively. An aortic dissection produces symptoms such as severe chest pain, upper back pain, severe abdominal pain, loss of consciousness, breathlessness, difficulty speaking, leg pain, and vision loss. Treatment can vary depending on what type of aortic dissection has occurred.
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What Is The Aorta?
The aorta is one of the most critical large blood vessels in an individual's body. It is attached to the top side of the heart and curves downward to supply oxygen-rich blood to the other parts of the body. Blood flows into the right atria and ventricle of the heart and is then pumped into the lungs to be oxygenated. From the lungs, blood moves back to the heart into the left atria. The oxygenated blood then moves into the left ventricle and is pumped out of the heart through the aorta. The aorta is the largest artery in the body and measures over an inch in diameter and a foot in length. An individual's aorta has four different sections. The ascending aorta is the segment that rises from the top of the heart and measures around two inches in length. The aortic arch is the segment of the aorta that makes a curve or U-turn over the heart, and smaller arteries that supply the arms, head, and neck branch off of it. The descending thoracic aorta is the segment that travels from the end of the aortic arch to the middle of the chest. At the level of the diaphragm, the abdominal aorta starts and then splits into the iliac artery pair.
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