Arterial Dissections

Also known as: carotid artery dissections, vertebral artery dissections, aortic dissections, coronary artery dissections

What are arterial dissections?

When a tear occurs in the lining of one of the body’s arteries, this is known as an arterial dissection. The reason it’s known as a dissection is that the tear causes blood to penetrate the lining and peel it away from the arterial wall. This “dissects” the artery, weakening it, making it narrower than normal or even causing it to close off (clot) completely. Dissections occur frequently in the vessels of the neck, head or spine and are found more often in boys than girls.

What causes arterial dissections?
For many of the dissections, no cause is found. In some cases, arterial dissection is related to a blow on the head or neck. In others, there are medical reasons why the blood vessel wall is weakened (congenital abnormalities or inflammatory conditions) making it more likely that a dissection will occur.

What are the symptoms of arterial dissections?
The concerning thing about arterial dissections is that often the first symptoms that occur are related to a stroke. These can include headache, facial pain, vision problems or weakness on one side of the body. Speech and problems result from poor blood supply through the vessels of the spine. Symptoms will of course vary depending on which vessel dissects/clots off.

What are arterial dissection care options?
Treatment depends on which vessel is involved and the severity of the tear. If the dissection is a small one in the neck, blood-thinning medications with observation over time may be used. Medical procedures such as the placement of a stent or angioplasty to repair the artery can also be used. Surgery or other catheter related techniques may be needed.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 5/24/2018 12:16:38 PM


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