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Diagnose aortic dissection early, follow patients for a lifetime

Washington University is participating in the largest registry to collect information about aortic dissection, a potentially lethal heart condition

June 25, 2010

Aortic dissection is a condition that involves a separation of the aorta walls. It is highly lethal if not recognized and treated urgently.

Washington University is one of approximately 24 sites around the world participating in the International Registry of Acute Aortic Dissections.

“This is the largest registry collecting information about aortic dissection,” says Alan Braverman, MD, a Washington University cardiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “We collect clinical data for each patient and do a five-year follow-up. Such information has been invaluable in research in this disorder and has led to important discoveries in medical and surgical treatment for acute aortic dissection.”

Catching it early is key

“While the doctor is thinking about other diseases, it can be fatal,” Braverman says. “So it’s important to think ‘Could this be an aortic dissection?’ and do the appropriate tests early.”

A complication in a descending dissection could involve a blood vessel to a kidney or a leg. In such instances a vascular surgeon can insert a stent to protect that circulation with less risk than open surgery.

Once a patient has been diagnosed with an aortic dissection, Braverman recommends screening family members. Genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome or a bicuspid aortic valve can run in families and are associated with a higher risk of aortic dissection.