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Open Access Short Report

Aortic dissection at the University hospital of the West Indies: A 20-year clinicopathological study of autopsy cases

Kathleen CM Coard

Author Affiliations

Department of Pathology, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica

BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:348  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-348

Published: 9 September 2011



An autopsy study of aortic dissection (AD) at our institution was previously reported. In the approximately 20 years since then, however, many aspects of diagnosis and treatment of this disease have changed, with a fall in mortality reported in many centers around the world. An impression amongst our pathologists that, there might be an increase in the prevalence of AD in the autopsy service at our hospital, since that earlier report, led to this repeated study, in an attempt to validate that notion. We also sought to identify any changes in clinicopathological features between the two series or any occurring during this study period itself.


All cases of AD identified at autopsy, during the 20-year period since the conclusion of the last study, were collected and pertinent clinical and pathological data were analyzed and compared, both within the two decades of this study period and against the results of the last study.

Fifty-six cases comprised this study group including 36 males and 20 females, with a mean age of 63.9 years. There were, more patients in the second decade (n = 33; 59%) compared with the first decade (n = 23; 41%). Hypertension as a risk factor was identified in 52 (93%) cases and rupture occurred in 49 (88%) cases. A clinical diagnosis of AD was considered prior to surgery or autopsy in 25 (45%) cases overall, more during the second decade. Surgery was attempted in 25% of all cases with an increase in the second decade compared with the first.


Compared with the earlier review, a variety of changes in the profile of patients with AD in the autopsy service has been noted, including a reversal in the female predominance seen previously. Other observations include an increase in cases where the correct clinical diagnosis was considered and in which surgical treatment was attempted, changes also evident when the second decade of the present study was compared with the earlier decade. Overall, there were many positive trends. However, areas that could still be improved include an increased index of suspicion for the diagnosis of AD and perhaps in the initiation of treatment, earlier, in those cases where the correct diagnosis was considered.