How are Aortic Dissections Different Than Heart Attacks?

Understanding the Difference Between an Aortic Dissection and a Heart Attack


We all know how important your heart is to your body.  This is because your heart pumps oxygenated blood through your body which is used to sustain muscle, organs, and other tissue.  But just like other organs, your heart also needs a supply of oxygen to survive.  Thus, a heart attack is when the blood support to your heart muscle is significant reduced or completely stopped.  This occurs when the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with the oxygenated blood become blocked.  This could occur slowly over time, or it could occur suddenly with a blood clot or plaque that breaks apart and then gets lodged elsewhere.  While heart attacks can be immediately fatal, most people do survive heart attacks and live a normal life.


While we have all heard of heart attacks at one time or another, most people have not heard of an aortic dissection unless they or someone they know has been diagnosed with such condition.  An aortic dissection is very different than a heart attack in that it does not block the flow of oxygenated blood.  Rather, an aortic dissection occurs when the aorta, or the “pipes” directing blood up and out of the heart, suffer a tear in them.  An aortic dissection is when the layers of the aorta have a tear of bubble and blood flows in between the inner layers of the walls.  This can cause a disruption of blood flow through the body, as well as some serious symptoms.  While this is not always immediately fatal, an aortic dissection can be fatal if the tear in the aorta is completely through the lining, or if the lining is not repaired and begins to scar tissue which hardens if and makes it more prone to rupturing.


Even though both a heart attack and an aortic dissection are both very important to immediately treat, a patient who suffers an aortic dissection and is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all will usually suffer greatly.  Not only will the pain and suffering be high, but the failure to repair and treat the aortic dissection will likely result in a rupture which will cause the wrongful death of a patient.  This could be due to Oregon medical malpractice, and very preventable medical errors too.


Signs of an Aortic Dissection


While many of the signs of an aortic dissection and a heart attack are very similar, such as chest pain, back pain, and shoulder pain, initial tests will not demonstrate a heart attack has occurred.  Usually, because the symptoms of an aortic dissection mirror that of a stroke, the emergency department will than test for a stroke which will also be negative.  Now is when the tests for an aortic dissection should occur.


The symptoms and signs of an aortic dissection which are unique to it include the following:


  • Loss of feeling to one side of a person’s body, which include paralysis to only one side;
  • Weak pulse to one arm or to one leg on the same side of the body, but not to the other side of the body;
  • Headaches;
  • Shortness of breath for no reason;
  • Rapid heartbeat for no reason;
  • Trouble standing, balancing, walking, or moving;
  • Speech impairments, slurring, or difficulty; and
  • Other symptoms.


Knowing the Differences Between a Heart Attack and an Aortic Dissection Can Save Your Life


While both a heart attack and an aortic dissection are major medical emergencies, they are both treatable when a patient receives proper and timely care and treatment.  This is very important, because Oregon medical malpractice in treating either condition can lead to the wrongful death of a patient.  This is especially true of an aortic dissection.


We know how dangerous and deadly an aortic dissection can be.  Here at Kuhlman Law, LLC, we handle very serious and catastrophic medical malpractice cases occurring anywhere in Oregon, including in Portland, Eugene, Salem, Gresham, and in Bend where our office is located, as well as anywhere else throughout Central Oregon, Deschutes County, and in Oregon.  We also have an office in Minnesota.  To receive a FREE case analysis, please call our Oregon medical malpractice lawyer by dialing (541) 385-1999 or use our easy and convenient “contact us” box at the bottom of our website.  If we accept your case, we will conduct a FREE investigation to get you the answers that you deserve regarding your case.

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