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Glossary of Terms

Dissection of the Aorta (Aortic Dissection)
A condition of the aorta in which the inner layer of the aorta tears, allowing the blood flowing across the tear to enter the tear and flow between the layers of the aorta. As the blood travels between the layers of the aorta the blood is separating or "dissecting" the layers of the aorta. The aorta is made up of 3 layers. When the inner layer tears, the blood dissects the intima away from the outer two layers. The cause of the intimal tear can be high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or trauma. Aortic dissections can occur in any portion of the aorta and can become serious or life-threatening. Although they are not true aneurysms, dissections are sometimes referred to as aneurysms or dissecting aneurysms because they can expand and resemble aneurysms of the aorta. Dissections of the ascending aorta and aortic arch are considered surgical emergencies. Dissections of the descending thoracic aorta are often treated medically, but may require surgery depending on certain indications.

Aortic Dissection

DeBakey Classification System

The DeBakey System describes different anatomical types of aortic dissection, based on the location of the tear and extent of the dissection.

  • Type I begins in the ascending aorta and continues to the aortic arch and sometimes beyond.
  • Type II is confined within the ascending aorta.
  • Type III is confined within the descending aorta.



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