Quick Facts:

  • The aorta is the main blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
  • An aortic aneurysm is a widening, bulge, or ballooning of a portion of the aorta.
  • An aortic dissection is a tear between the layers of the aorta, which can cause an aneurysm or rupture.
  • Approximately 10,000 people experience aortic dissections annually.
  • Fast, accurate diagnosis of dissection is imperative: 50% of patients with undiagnosed aortic dissection die within 48 hours, a death rate of approximately 1% per hour.

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After dissection: post-op care

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Many physicians feel that with excellent blood pressure control and conscious limits to physical activity, patients can continue to lead long, full lives after a dissection. But it may require several months to regain energy after an aortic dissection. During this time please be patient with yourself and don’t rush your recovery.

For the first two years after surgery you will be closely monitored for any signs of complications such as a new aneurysm or a recurrent dissection. You will have a baseline CT scan or MRI within the first 3 months after surgery, and then will have repeat imaging of the aorta at periodic intervals over the next two years.

After aortic dissection, most patients require medication to control blood pressure to minimize stress on the aortic wall.

You and your doctor will also discuss lifestyle modifications that may be necessary, depending on your individual circumstances.  In general:

  • Normal daily activities such as driving, cooking, driving and climbing stairs usually aren’t light exercise, including mild aerobic exercise, is usually permitted. Even after dissection, routine exercise will continue to be important for your physical and emotional health.
  • But you will need to avoid strenuous activities that require maximal exertion (e.g., running, strenuous yard work or shoveling snow, etc.) and activities that involve heavy lifting because these can increase blood pressure and stress on the aortic wall.
  • Sexual activity that avoids straining, maximum exertion or shortness of breath may be permitted.

Every person’s body and cardiovascular system responds differently to physical activity, so it is very important to discuss your physical activity levels and any concerns with your doctor.