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Open Access Highly Accessed Short Report

Acute aortic dissection: be aware of misdiagnosis

Irene Asouhidou* and Theodora Asteri

Author Affiliations

Department of Cardiac Anesthesia, "G. Papanikolaou" General Hospital, Exohi, Thessaloniki, Greece

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BMC Research Notes 2009, 2:25  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-2-25

Published: 20 February 2009

Abstract

Background

Acute aortic dissection (AAD) is a life-threatening condition requiring immediate assessment and therapy. A patient suffering from AAD often presents with an insignificant or irrelevant medical history, giving rise to possible misdiagnosis. The aim of this retrospective study is to address the problem of misdiagnosing AD and the different imaging studies used.

Methods

From January 2000 to December 2004, 49 patients (41 men and 8 women, aged from 18–75 years old) presented to the Emergency Department of our hospital for different reasons and finally diagnosed with AAD. Fifteen of those patients suffered from arterial hypertension, one from giant cell arteritis and another patient from Marfan's syndrome. The diagnosis of AAD was made by chest X-ray, contrast enhanced computed tomography (CT), transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) and coronary angiography.

Results

Initial misdiagnosis occurred in fifteen patients (31%) later found to be suffering from AAD. The misdiagnosis was myocardial infarction in 12 patients and cerebral infarction in another three patients.

Conclusion

Aortic dissection may present with a variety of clinical manifestations, like syncope, chest pain, anuria, pulse deficits, abdominal pain, back pain, or acute congestive heart failure. Nearly a third of the patients found to be suffering from AD, were initially otherwise diagnosed. Key in the management of acute aortic dissection is to maintain a high level of suspicion for this diagnosis.