Heart Attack vs Aortic Dissection Symptoms


Mark Cave was making repairs on his rental property when he felt a “bolt of lightning” in his chest. He sat down and texted his spouse to say, “I love you and I think I’m having a heart attack.”

It’s not stunning that Cave thought he was having a coronary heart assault. He had a number of widespread signs, like extreme chest ache. But it was really a unique emergency — a tear in his aorta (referred to as an aortic dissection).

Heart assaults and aortic dissections are each life-threatening emergencies that want quick therapy. They’re simply mistaken for one another as a result of they’ve comparable signs. Telling them aside is important to getting the correct therapy life-saving therapy.

Read how paramedics picked up on Cave’s arterial dissection signs. Plus, be taught whether or not you are in danger and what to do about it.

Heart Attack vs Aortic Dissection

Aortic dissection and coronary heart assault can look the identical, however they’re very completely different.

A coronary heart assault is from a blocked artery going to the center. An aortic dissection is a tear within the inside wall of the physique’s predominant artery — the aorta.

The aorta sends blood away from our coronary heart to the remainder of our physique. It’s the dimensions of a backyard hose and formed like a sweet cane. A dissection can block blood from attending to important organs or trigger the aorta to burst open (rupture).

What You Need to Know About a Major Killer

Like a coronary heart assault, aortic dissection may be lethal. It kills greater than 10,000 individuals every year. The dying price for individuals who have an aortic dissection has been rising over the previous decade.

This is particularly true for girls and Black adults, exhibits analysis printed within the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Aortic Dissection Symptoms Can Mimic a Heart Attack

An aortic dissection and coronary heart assault are each medical emergencies. Like Cave, you’ll need to name 911 instantly if in case you have any of those aortic dissection signs:

  • Sudden extreme chest or higher again ache
  • Pain that seems like tearing or ripping and spreads to your neck or down your again
  • Sudden extreme abdomen ache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath

Aortic Dissection Symptoms Can Also Look Like a Stroke

Aortic dissection signs may even typically be extra like a stroke. A stroke occurs when a torn or blocked artery retains blood and oxygen from attending to the mind.

These aortic dissection signs are much like indicators of a stroke:

  • Sudden imaginative and prescient issues
  • Difficulty talking
  • Weakness or lack of motion on one facet of your physique
  • Weak pulse in a single arm or thigh in contrast with the opposite
  • Leg ache
  • Difficulty strolling

Again, in the event you see any of those signs, name 911 instantly.

Aortic Dissection Blood Pressure Difference

Cave is grateful to the Charlottesville paramedic group for selecting up on a important clue. The blood stress studying in his left arm was rather a lot completely different from the studying in his proper arm.

This probably meant his signs had been from a torn aorta relatively than a blocked coronary heart artery. Paramedics alerted medical doctors at UVA Health so Cave may get the correct therapy.

Finding out in the event you’re in danger for aortic dissection may save your life. First, if you already know, you’ll be able to take steps to stop it. But in the event you do have signs, you’ll be able to alert first responders to your danger.

Who’s At Risk for Aortic Dissection?

Lots of persons are in danger. And there’s excellent news: coronary heart medical doctors can monitor your aorta to maintain you from having an aortic dissection.

High Blood Pressure

Not controlling hypertension over the long term or stopping blood stress drugs can set off an aortic dissection.

Extreme Strain

Another set off is an damage to the chest like excessive straining from physique constructing.

Genetic Conditions

These genetic syndromes significantly enhance your danger for thoracic aortic illness and a doubtlessly deadly aortic dissection:

  • Marfan syndrome
  • Loeys-Dietz syndrome
  • Turner syndrome
  • Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome 

You Have Aortic Disease

Two aortic situations can put you at better danger for aortic dissection:

Aortic Disease Runs in Your Family

You’re additionally at better danger if in case you have any rapid kin with:

How to Prevent Aortic Dissection

If you have got danger components, you’ll need to see a coronary heart physician who specializes in aortic illness. They can do aortic imaging to measure the dimensions of your aorta. This manner, they’ll discover aortic illness even in the event you don’t have signs.

The actor John Ritter died of an aortic dissection. After Ritter’s dying, his members of the family had imaging to search out out if they’d an undetected aneurysm. John’s brother did and had it surgically repaired to stop a tear.

It’s additionally actually vital to manage hypertension with treatment.

And as a result of aortic illness can run in households, you’ll need to think about genetic counseling.

Worried About Aortic Dissection?

You want the specialists at UVA Health’s prime Aortic Center.

Emergency Aortic Dissection Surgery Saves Mark’s Life

Cave heard sirens as quickly as he hung up after calling 911 when he had aortic dissection signs. A hearth station was solely a block and a half away. Paramedics arrived inside a minute. And solely a mile away was the group of coronary heart and vascular surgical procedure specialists at UVA Health.

Cardiovascular surgeon John Kern, MD, led a group that repaired Cave’s aorta throughout an emergency 12-hour surgical procedure. Cave’s aortic dissection was so extreme it will have been deadly if not caught throughout the first jiffy.

Cave wanted main surgical procedure to restore his aortic dissection. But some individuals who have an aortic dissection don’t want surgical procedure. Treatment is determined by how extreme it’s and the place the tear occurs. Experts can handle some aortic dissections with treatment or minimally invasive endovascular strategies.

Cave is lengthy totally recovered after going by way of cardiac rehabilitation. And virtually a decade later, he stays grateful to UVA Health — not only for saving his life, however his son’s life.

Another Medical Emergency within the Cave Family

In 2014, Cave introduced his 13-year-old son, Sebastian, to the pediatric emergency division at UVA Health. It was two years earlier than Cave was hit with extreme chest ache and different aortic dissection signs.

A mind imaging scan revealed Sebastian had a benign mind tumor. But UVA Health neurosurgeons eliminated the tumor and fluid buildup that was threatening the boy’s life. And Sebastian is now a Wake Forest University graduate. His dad is a proud Wake Forest alum, too.

“The overarching moral of this story has to do with the brilliance of the local paramedics and the doctors and nurses at UVA Health,” Mark Cave says. He provides, “Had it not been for their incredible training and dedication to their craft, I wouldn’t be here and my son wouldn’t be here today.”


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