What Is Aortic Dissection?

Aortic dissection is a tearing of the large blood vessel (the aorta) that leads to the heart. That tearing causes the layers of the aorta to separate.  Since blood continues to be pumped, it can build up and ultimately burst through the aortic wall.

Here are some of the symptoms of aortic dissection:

  • Sudden chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of conciousness
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • Loss of vision
  • Paralysis or severe weakness

These sound a lot like a stroke or heart attack, so diagnostic testing is usually required to diagnose this condition, which can be fatal if left untreated.  Usually a transesaphogeal echocardiogram (taking a picture of your heart) is ordered to visualize the area and determine whether there is a tear (or dissection).  Physicians may order a CT scan or MRA (pictures of blood vessels) to visualize the blood vessels.

The causes of aortic dissection can vary; from chronic high blood pressure (hypertension) to a traumatic event like a car crash.  Once diagnosed, the treatment is usually surgery.

If Aortic Dissection is Misdiagnosed is it Medical Malpractice?

It certainly can be.  If the physicians and nurses in the hospital ignore the clear warning signs, did not order the appropriate tests, or delayed the surgery after the diagnosis was made it could be malpractice. Any of these choices whould have violated established patient safety rules.

Unfortunately, if a hospital in the DC, Maryland, or Virginia area does not have a system in place; procedures to guard against doctors or nurses who ignore warning signs, don't order the appropriate test, or delay the surgery, the harm to the patient can be fatal.

What Can You Do After Medical Malpractice in a DC Area Hospital?

What can you do if a loved one may have this serious, life-threatening medical condition, or is in the hospital for a serious medical condition or injury?  Start by being an advocate for the patient. Question the doctors and nurses about their choices. Make sure they are not in too much of a hurry to discuss and explain things to you; and make sure they follow the rules and don't take shortcuts.

A good place to start is our free, no obligation, easy-to-read guide giving you tips to prevent medical malpractice in D.C., Maryland and Virginia: 7 Symptoms of Medical Malpractice:  How You Can Recognize, Stop and Avoid Medical Mistakes.  Just click on the image to download it right now, or call us at (202) 393 - 3320 and we'll send it to you today.

Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer