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Causes - Aortic dissection

Aortic dissection happens because of weakness in the aortic wall. There's no one reason why this weakness happens.

High blood pressure over a long period of time may weaken the wall of the aorta, making it more likely to tear.

Conditions that cause a weakened aortic wall

Some people are born with a condition that causes a weakened wall of the aorta.

These conditions include:

  • Marfan syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Loeys-Dietz syndrome
  • Turner's syndrome

Males over 50 are at an increased risk but anyone can suffer an aortic dissection.

Things that increase the risk of aortic dissection

There is an increased risk of aortic dissection if you:

  • already have an enlarged aorta (aortic aneurysm)
  • have a history of aortic diseases in your family
  • have a bicuspid aortic valve
  • have sustained a severe injury to the chest
  • have had previous cardiac surgery
  • smoke
  • regular cocaine or amphetamines use 

There is an increased risk of an aortic dissection if you are 6 months or more pregnant. But it is very rare.

The risk of complications is 5.5 cases per million.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 9 December 2020
Next review due: 10 December 2023

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.