An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which the wall of the major artery carrying blood out of the heart – the aorta – tears. An aortic dissection can lead to aortic rupture or decreased blood flow to vital organs. Generally, symptoms of an aortic dissection come on suddenly and often include sharp, stabbing, tearing or ripping chest pain which moves to the shoulder, neck, arm, jaw and/or abdomen. The decreased blood flow to the remainder of the body caused by an aortic dissection can result in fainting, dizziness, sweating, nausea, pale skin, shortness of breath and an accelerated or slowed pulse.
When a patient presents with any combination of the above-mentioned symptoms, a cardiac event – including an aortic dissection – must be included in the differential diagnosis until definitively ruled out. A CT scan can easily be used to diagnose or rule out an aortic dissection but, critically, the CT scan must be performed with dye / contrast in order for the aortic dissection to be seen. Performing a CT scan without dye / contrast will prevent the physician from seeing the dissection, causing the physician to falsely believe that there is none.
An aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition that must be treated quickly. It can be managed with surgery if timely diagnosed but must be addressed before the aorta ruptures as statistics demonstrate that less than half of people with a ruptured aorta survive. The failure to timely diagnose and treat an aortic dissection can have catastrophic consequences for the patient up to, and including death.
As experienced medical malpractice attorneys, we have successfully pursued a number of medical malpractice cases involving aortic dissections. If you or a loved one suffered an aortic dissection that you think should have been diagnosed sooner or was improperly treated, call our malpractice lawyers at STSW for a free consultation at (410) 385-2225.