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Symptoms - Aortic dissection

The main symptom of an aortic dissection is severe pain in your chest or in your back. You can also have pain in your stomach. The symptoms can be mistaken for a heart attack, acute gastritis or lung pain.

Typical signs and symptoms include:

  • sudden severe chest or upper back pain. This is sometimes described as a tearing, ripping or shearing sensation. It can radiate to the neck or down the back
  • sudden severe tummy pain
  • loss of consciousness
  • shortness of breath
  • sudden difficulty speaking, loss of vision, weakness or paralysis of one side of your body, like a stroke
  • weak pulse in 1 arm or thigh compared with the other
  • pain in the arms, legs or kidneys
  • difficulty walking
  • sweaty and clammy skin

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 immediately if:

  • you have any of these symptoms of aortic dissection

These symptoms do not always mean a serious problem, but early detection and treatment may help save your life.


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

Page last reviewed: 17 February 2022
Next review due: 17 February 2025

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