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How Serious is a Torn Aorta?

A torn aorta, also known as traumatic aortic transection or disruption, is a condition in which the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, splits as a result of shock in the body. The condition is generally fatal in most of the cases because of the excessive internal bleeding as a result of the rupture.

How Serious is a Torn Aorta?

Anatomy of Aorta

The aorta is the main blood vessel which carries blood out of your heart. It is an outsized artery, elastic in nature, comprising three stratums: the Tunica Adventitia, Tunica Media and Tunica Interna or Intima. A single layer of endothelial cells make the Tunica Intima, the innermost layer of aorta. The middle layer is the thickest of all, and is made up multiple layers of smooth muscular cells, elastic tissue and collagen which provide elasticity and tensile strength to the aorta and other arteries too. The Tunica adventitia is the outermost layer which comprises of loose connective tissue. It also contains the Vasa Vasorum, a system which supplies blood to the walls of aorta itself.

If anyone has a dissection of the aorta or torn aorta, it means that there is an internal bleeding between the wall of the aorta, mostly in between its middle wall and inner wall. This usually happens when Tunica Intima of aorta gets ruptured and bleeding takes place from the core part of the artery in between the walls. In many cases blood diffuses from the tiny vessels which supply the outer wall of the aorta. This can also lead to blood collecting underneath the layers of the walls of aorta. The complication which can occur is that torn aortic walls could diffuse blood out of the aorta, and cause its rupture which can be fatal.

Aorta moves upwards when it first leaves your heart which is called the ascending aorta. Then it moves downwards, passing from the chest into the abdomen, this portion is known as descending aorta. A splitting can occur in both the ascending and descending portion of the aorta.

Aortic splits can be categorized into two types: Type A or Type B:

Type A: When the dissection occurs at the ascending aorta it is termed as Type A. They are more harmful.

Type B: When the dissection occurs at the descending aorta it is termed as Type B. They are less harmful than type A and require less attention and treatment.

Symptoms of Dissection of the Aorta

It can be difficult to differentiate the signs and symptoms of torn aorta from those of the impaired heart conditions, such as heart attack. The most common symptoms of these conditions are chest pain and pain in the upper back. An intense chest pain occurs which sometimes is mistaken for a heart attack, but unlike in the case of a heart attack, the pain generally begins quickly and seems to move around. Some people have less pain, which is often mistaken for muscle strain, but this is a less common symptom.

Other Signs And Symptoms Include:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Troublesome speaking
  • Difference in the pulse rate of both the arms.

The risk of torn aorta increases with increasing age and it is more common amongst males aged between 40-70 years. The conditions of the body which increases the risk are:

  • Hypertension
  • Excessive smoking
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Conditions such as Marfan’s syndrome
  • Surgeries pertaining to the periphery of heart
  • Previous Chest injuries
  • Narrowing of Aorta
  • Faulty valves of aorta
  • Use of Narcotic drugs.


  1. American Heart Association (AHA) – Aortic Dissection: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/aortic-aneurysm/what-is-an-aneurysm/aortic-dissection
  2. Mayo Clinic – Aortic Dissection: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/aortic-dissection/symptoms-causes/syc-20369487
  3. Cleveland Clinic – Aortic Dissection: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17420-aortic-dissection
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) – Aortic Dissection: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/aortic-dissection
  5. European Heart Journal – Aortic Dissection: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/35/41/2873/2293372

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 20, 2023

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