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An Evidence-Based Approach To Acute Aortic Syndromes

December 2013


Aortic dissection, intramural hematoma, and penetrating athero- sclerotic ulcer are parts of a spectrum of acute aortic syndromes that represent uncommon - but potentially deadly - diagnoses seen in the emergency department. The differential for acute aortic syndromes is large, as many conditions (including the much more common conditions of acute coronary syndromes and pulmonary embolism) present with many of the same chief complaints. This review looks at the features and classifications of acute aortic syndromes and presents evidence regarding the risk factors and chief complaints that can assist emergency clinicians in identifying the patients who require further investigation. Although no set of clinical factors has been shown to rule out aortic dissection, elements of a complete history and physical examination are critical in identifying patients who may be at risk for these diseases. In addition, the advantages and disadvantages of the various available advanced imaging strategies, the evidence regarding efficacy of laboratory testing (including D-dimer), as well as surgical and nonsurgical treatment options are reviewed.

Key words: aortic dissection, acute aortic syndromes, intramural hematoma, penetrating atherosclerotic ulcer, Marfan syndrome, connective tissue disorders, TEVAR

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