An aorta tear requires immediate surgery and survival odds are good, yet delayed diagnosis often proves too late, said Dr. Edward Savage, cardiothoracic surgeon and director of the Heart & Vascular Center at Cleveland Clinic Florida near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Most people assume it is a heart attack so sometimes the diagnosis is delayed,” he said. “So you have to have a high suspicion.”
Patients believe they are suffering a heart attack with pain in their chest, he said. But what’s distinctive with a tear is that as blood leaks into the space between the layers of the ascending aorta, the pain will often move upward and can work its way along the spine, Savage said.