An aortic dissection is a medical emergency. It needs immediate treatment. Treatment may include surgery or medications. There are different treatments for type A and type B aortic dissections.
Treating type A aortic dissection
A type A aortic dissection is an emergency and needs immediate treatment. Around half of patients will die within 1 hour if they do not get to an emergency department for treatment.
Open heart surgery is needed to repair the damaged aorta. You may also need to have your aortic valve replaced. Around 8 out of 10 patients survive this surgery.
Treating type B aortic dissection
A type B aortic dissection will be managed if possible by medical means. Medicines will be used to control your blood pressure to allow the aorta to heal. You will need to stay in hospital so doctors can monitor your healing.
If medicine does not stabilise your type B dissection you may need other treatments. The placement of a stent through an artery in the groin is an option or you may need surgery to repair the damaged aorta.
You may not need surgery for a type B dissection if it did not rupture or interfere with blood flow to the abdominal organs or legs.
Recovery from aortic dissection
After the initial treatment for type A or type B, you may need to take medicine to lower your blood pressure. It is likely that you will remain on this medicine to control your blood pressure for the rest of your life. If you have had a new metal aortic valve you will need also to take Warfarin for the rest of your life. You should get regular checks with a specialist doctor, including CT or MRI scans. These are to monitor the aorta in case any further problems occur.
After treatment, recovery is different for every patient. It can take from a few months to years, but a return to an active and normal life is possible
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE