Sunday, November 27, 2011

Aortic Dissection and Cardiac Tamponade

One of the greatest threats to life associated with thoracic aortic disease is uncontrolled bleeding. The diseased aorta may tear (dissection) or rupture. 
When blood escapes from the part of the aorta enclosed by the pericardial sack around the heart, it results in what is called cardiac tamponade. The following video shows how this happens. The example used is a tear that begins in the inner lining of the descending aorta and goes backward, against the flow of blood. Often the tear may start in the ascending aorta and continue forward, in the same direction as  the flow of blood. In either case, if blood leaks out of the aorta into the pericardial sack, cardiac tamponade results.

Some of those with aortic dissection may survive for hours or even days. However, if the outermost layer of the aorta is breached at any time, blood flows out of the aorta. As seen in the video, it may fill the pericardium, resulting in death as the heart stops beating. If the leakage is from a section of the aorta outside the pericardium, blood is forced out into the body with each heart beat, also resulting in immediate death.

The Bicuspid Aortic Foundation hears from those who have lost a loved one in this truly horrific way. In sharing this video, we hope that it will increase understanding of what an aortic emergency truly is. This is why it is so important that aortic disease be found early, monitored carefully, and surgery take place before a crisis occurs. May we all help raise the visibility of BAV and other forms of TAD that put far too many lives at risk of sudden death.

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