[Aortic aneurysms and aortic dissection: epidemiology, pathophysiology and diagnostics]

F Baumann, V Makaloski, N Diehm
Der Internist 2013, 54 (5): 535-42
Aortic aneurysms and aortic dissection represent a significant health risk due to the demographic developments and current life styles. The mortality of ruptured aortic aneurysms is up to 80 % and the prevalence of aneurysms varies depending on the localization (thoracic or abdominal). Most commonly affected is the infrarenal abdominal aorta; however, there is evidence that the prevalence is diminishing but in contrast the incidence of thoracic aortic aneurysms is increasing. Aortic dissection is often fatal and is the most common acute aortic disease but the incidence is presumed to be underestimated. The pathogenesis of aortic aneurysms is manifold and is based on an interplay between degenerative, proteolytic and inflammatory processes. An aortic dissection arises from a tear in the intima which results in a separation of the aortic wall layers with infiltration of bleeding and the danger of aortic rupture. Various genetic disorders of connective tissue promote degeneration of the aortic media, most notably Marfan syndrome. Risk factors for aortic aneurysms and aortic dissection are nicotine abuse, arterial hypertension, age and male gender. Aortic aneurysms initially have an uneventful course and as a consequence are mostly discovered incidentally. The clinical course and symptoms of aortic dissection are very much dependent on the section of the aorta affected and the manifestations are manifold. Acute aortic dissection is in 80 % of cases first manifested as sudden extremely severe pain. The diagnostics and subsequent course control can be achieved by a variety of imaging procedures but the modality of choice is computed tomography.

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