An aortic dissection is a tear in the aorta that causes sudden and severe pain in the chest, back or belly.  An aortic dissection can happen anywhere in the aorta.  When it involves the descending aorta in the back of the chest it is called a Type B dissection.

Change in the pattern of flow to the tear can result in any of the body’s organs not receiving enough blood flow.  While Type A dissection usually require emergency surgery.  Type B Dissections may or may not require early intervention.  Some early complications that can be seen with Type B Dissections involve lack of adequate flow to the spinal cord, bowel, kidneys and legs.  Once the aorta has torn, it is at risk for forming an aneurysm with time.  Thus all patients with aortic dissections require follow up diagnostic imaging.

Above: Illustration showing tear in wall of aorta resulting in acute dissection of descending aorta (Type B Dissection).

Below: Image showing corresponding findings on CT scan.

Both Type A (following an aortic dissection repair) and B (medical management) are followed by a team of doctors specializing in aortic dissections.  Follow up is especially important within the first 2 years.