Dissection of the thoracic aorta. Medical or surgical therapy?

James E. Dalen, Joseph S. Alpert, Lawrence H. Cohn, Harrison Black, John J. Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Both medical and surgical therapy are available for the treatment of aortic dissection. To help determine which form of treatment is indicated for which patients, all cases of aortic dissection at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital from 1963 to 1973 were reviewed. The most important feature in determining the patient's clinical status and response to therapy was the site of dissection, that is, the ascending or descending aorta. Of 31 patients with dissection of the ascending aorta, 26 had one or more of the following contraindications to medical therapy: congestive heart failure (8 patients), hemopericardium (8 patients), new aortic insufficiency (13 patients) or jeopardized carotid or coronary arteries (4 patients). Medical therapy was successful in only 1 of 9 patients with dissection of the ascending aorta; 17 of 22 patients having surgical correction of this lesion did well and were discharged. The clinical status of the 14 patients with dissection limited to the descending aorta was quite different. None had a contraindication to medical therapy. Medical therapy was instituted in all 14, and was successful in 6; dissection progressed in 8 patients despite medical therapy, and subsequent surgery was successful in only 2. We conclude that the treatment of choice for dissection of the ascending aorta is prompt surgical therapy. In patients with dissection limited to the descending aorta, medical therapy is usually feasible and often successful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)803-808
Number of pages6
JournalThe American Journal of Cardiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 1974
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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