When there is a tear in the aorta, before or during surgery, blood flowing through the aorta causes the inner and middle layers of the vessel to separate, explains Mayo Clinic. If the tear ultimately ruptures the outside layer of the aorta, death often results.
A tear in the aorta is a medical emergency that requires immediate surgical repair and medications, according to Mayo Clinic. Depending on the location of the tear, doctors refer to the condition as a Type A or B dissection, and the consequent surgical procedure differs for each. During a Type A surgery, surgeons remove as much of the damaged aorta as possible and then insert a tube, known as a graft. When an aortic dissection causes damage to the aortic valve, a new one may be placed in the graft during the same procedure. Doctors use medications that reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure to reduce the potential damage of a tear and to prepare a patient for surgery.
Surgeons use a similar surgical procedure for a Type B aortic dissection, with the addition of wire mesh tubes called stents, which function as supports for the blood vessel walls, notes Mayo Clinic. Doctors prescribe the same kinds of medications for a Type B tear as those given to Type A patients, and these are sometimes sufficient to treat the condition without using surgery. Regardless of whether they recommend surgery or not, doctors may prescribe lifelong blood pressure medication for anyone diagnosed with an aortic tear.