If you’ve been having ripping, stabbing or excruciating chest pain out of the blue, even if it comes and goes, get to the ER immediately.

You may have minutes to live…

“Stabbing or ripping chest pain always raises the specter of what we call ‘aortic dissection,’ says Dr. John A. Elefteriades, MD, William W.L. Glenn Professor of Surgery, and Director, Aortic Institute at Yale-New Haven, New Haven, CT.

“Aortic dissection means internal tearing of the aorta, separating the inner from the outer layers of the aorta.”

It’s not  hard to understand why many people die within minutes of an aortic dissection — the aorta is the body’s largest blood vessel.

Blood that’s pumped by the heart goes into the aorta to be distributed to the rest of the body.

This great blood vessel has several branches that lead out from it, through which blood flows, and this includes to the brain.

What is an aortic dissection?

“This is exactly a ripping apart of the layers of the aorta, just as the term implies,” says Dr. Elefteriades. “This is a very serious condition that usually requires an immediate operation.”

This situation never goes away on its own; it’s a ripped blood vessel! It only gets worse; the course of it will lead to death unless it is promptly treated—and treatment is always surgery.

Aortic dissection results in massive internal bleeding. Some patients will die within minutes, while others have delayed the ER visit, not realizing how serious their situation was, and because the dissection was of a slower nature, they survived despite delaying the ER visit by up to a few days.

A “slower” dissection, however, will ultimately lead to death if it is not surgically repaired.

So if you or someone you know has been complaining of agonizing or ripping chest pain, don’t wait another second in getting to the ER.

Formerly the chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Yale University and Yale New-Haven Hospital, Dr. Elefteriades is working on identifying the genetic mutations responsible for thoracic aortic aneurysms. He is the author of over 400 scientific publications on a wide range of cardiac and thoracic topics.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 

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Top image: Shutterstock/ Robert Kneschke