Aortic rupture

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Aortic rupture
Aorta segments.jpg
Aorta segments, with thoracic aorta in area marked in green.
Specialty Vascular surgery, cardiology, emergency medicine
Symptoms Abdominal pain, flank pain, or back pain
Complications Shock, anemia
Usual onsetAcute
CausesRuptured aortic aneurysm, trauma
TreatmentSurgical repair
DeathsUp to 90% of cases

Aortic rupture is the rupture or breakage of the aorta, the largest artery in the body. Aortic rupture is a rare, extremely dangerous condition. The most common cause is an abdominal aortic aneurysm that has ruptured spontaneously. Aortic rupture is distinct from aortic dissection, which is a tear through the inner wall of the aorta that can block the flow of blood through the aorta to the heart or abdominal organs.


An aortic rupture can be classified according to its cause into one of the following main types:

Signs and symptoms




The most common cause of aortic rupture is a ruptured aortic aneurysm. Other causes include trauma and iatrogenic (procedure-related) causes.[ citation needed ]


The wall of the aorta is an elastic structure which requires integrity. Rupture results from either loss of wall strength to the point at which systemic pressure is greater than wall strength, or external destruction of the wall of the aorta, by a tumor or traumatic means. The bleeding can be retroperitoneal or intraperitoneal, or the rupture can create an aortocaval (between the aorta and inferior vena cava) or aortoenteric (between the aorta and intestine) fistula.[ citation needed ]


The condition is often suspected in patients close to death with abdominal trauma or with relevant risk-factors. Diagnosis may be confirmed by ultrasound or X-ray computed tomography (CT) scan.[ citation needed ]


Prevention of aortic rupture begins with screening for disease of the aorta. If indicated, treatment with EVAR or open repair of the diseased aorta can limit the risk of aortic rupture.[ citation needed ]


Aortic ruptures can be repaired surgically via open aortic surgery or using endovascular therapy (EVAR), regardless of cause, just as non-ruptured aortic aneurysms are repaired. An aortic occlusion balloon can be placed to stabilize the patient and prevent further blood loss prior to the induction of anesthesia.[ citation needed ]


Mortality from aortic rupture is up to 90%. 65–75% of patients die before they arrive at hospital and up to 90% die before they reach the operating room. [2]

Related Research Articles

Aortic dissection Injury to the innermost layer of the aorta allows blood to flow between the layers of the aortic wall, forcing the layers apart

Aortic dissection (AD) occurs when an injury to the innermost layer of the aorta allows blood to flow between the layers of the aortic wall, forcing the layers apart. In most cases, this is associated with a sudden onset of severe chest or back pain, often described as "tearing" in character. Also, vomiting, sweating, and lightheadedness may occur. Other symptoms may result from decreased blood supply to other organs, such as stroke or mesenteric ischemia. Aortic dissection can quickly lead to death from not enough blood flow to the heart or complete rupture of the aorta.

Aneurysm Bulge in the wall of a blood vessel

An aneurysm is an outward bulging, likened to a bubble or balloon, caused by a localized, abnormal, weak spot on a blood vessel wall. Aneurysms may be a result of a hereditary condition or an acquired disease. Aneurysms can also be a nidus for clot formation (thrombosis) and embolization. The word is from Greek: ἀνεύρυσμα, aneurysma, "dilation", from ἀνευρύνειν, aneurynein, "to dilate". As an aneurysm increases in size, the risk of rupture increases, leading to uncontrolled bleeding. Although they may occur in any blood vessel, particularly lethal examples include aneurysms of the Circle of Willis in the brain, aortic aneurysms affecting the thoracic aorta, and abdominal aortic aneurysms. Aneurysms can arise in the heart itself following a heart attack, including both ventricular and atrial septal aneurysms. There are congenital atrial septal aneurysms, a rare heart defect.

Interventional radiology

Interventional radiology (IR) is a medical subspecialty that performs various minimally-invasive procedures using medical imaging guidance, such as x-ray fluoroscopy, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or ultrasound. IR performs both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures through very small incisions or body orifices. Diagnostic IR procedures are those intended to help make a diagnosis or guide further medical treatment, and include image-guided biopsy of a tumor or injection of an imaging contrast agent into a hollow structure, such as a blood vessel or a duct. By contrast, therapeutic IR procedures provide direct treatment—they include catheter-based medicine delivery, medical device placement, and angioplasty of narrowed structures.

Internal bleeding

Internal bleeding is a loss of blood from a blood vessel that collects inside the body. Internal bleeding is usually not visible from the outside. It is a serious medical emergency but the extent of severity depends on bleeding rate and location of the bleeding. Severe internal bleeding into the chest, abdomen, retroperitoneal space, pelvis, and thighs can cause hemorrhagic shock or death if proper medical treatment is not received quickly. Internal bleeding is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately by medical professionals.

Aortic aneurysm Notable enlargement of the aorta (heart artery)

An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement (dilatation) of the aorta to greater than 1.5 times normal size. They usually cause no symptoms except when ruptured. Occasionally, there may be abdominal, back, or leg pain.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a localized enlargement of the abdominal aorta such that the diameter is greater than 3 cm or more than 50% larger than normal. They usually cause no symptoms, except during rupture. Occasionally, abdominal, back, or leg pain may occur. Large aneurysms can sometimes be felt by pushing on the abdomen. Rupture may result in pain in the abdomen or back, low blood pressure, or loss of consciousness, and often results in death.

Thoracic aortic aneurysm

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is an aortic aneurysm that presents primarily in the thorax.

Pseudoaneurysm Collection of blood between outer artery layers

A pseudoaneurysm, also known as a false aneurysm, is a collection of blood that forms between the two outer layers of an artery, the tunica media and the tunica externa. It is usually caused by a penetrating injury to the vessel, which then bleeds, but forms a space between the above two layers, rather than exiting the vessel. It may be pulsatile and can resemble a true aneurysm. A true aneurysm involves all three layers of the blood vessel. A dissecting aneurysm is when blood from the vessel lumen tracks between the two inner layers, the intima and the tunica media. This can cause blockage of the flow. A perivascular hematoma is a collection of blood that is external to the three vessel layers. Due to being close to the vessel, it can also be pulsatile, and can be mistaken for a pseudoaneurysm or aneurysm.

Grey Turners sign

Grey Turner's sign refers to bruising of the flanks, the part of the body between the last rib and the top of the hip. The bruising appears as a blue discoloration, and is a sign of retroperitoneal hemorrhage, or bleeding behind the peritoneum, which is a lining of the abdominal cavity. Grey Turner's sign takes 24–48 hours to develop, and can predict a severe attack of acute pancreatitis.

Blunt trauma Physical trauma caused to a body part, either by impact, injury or physical attack

Blunt trauma, also known as blunt force trauma or non-penetrating trauma, is physical trauma or impactful force to a body part, often occurring with road traffic accidents, direct blows, assaults, injuries during sports, and particularly in the elderly who fall. It is contrasted with penetrating trauma which occurs when an object pierces the skin and enters a tissue of the body, creating an open wound and bruise.

Hemoperitoneum is the presence of blood in the peritoneal cavity. The blood accumulates in the space between the inner lining of the abdominal wall and the internal abdominal organs. Hemoperitoneum is generally classified as a surgical emergency; in most cases, urgent laparotomy is needed to identify and control the source of the bleeding. In selected cases, careful observation may be permissible. The abdominal cavity is highly distensible and may easily hold greater than five liters of blood, or more than the entire circulating blood volume for an average-sized individual. Therefore, large-scale or rapid blood loss into the abdomen will reliably induce hemorrhagic shock and, if untreated, may rapidly lead to death.

Traumatic aortic rupture

Traumatic aortic rupture, also called traumatic aortic disruption or transection, is a condition in which the aorta, the largest artery in the body, is torn or ruptured as a result of trauma to the body. The condition is frequently fatal due to the profuse bleeding that results from the rupture. Since the aorta branches directly from the heart to supply blood to the rest of the body, the pressure within it is very great, and blood may be pumped out of a tear in the blood vessel very rapidly. This can quickly result in shock and death. Thus traumatic aortic rupture is a common killer in automotive accidents and other traumas, with up to 18% of deaths that occur in automobile collisions being related to the injury. In fact, aortic disruption due to blunt chest trauma is the second leading cause of injury death behind traumatic brain injury.

Endovascular aneurysm repair Surgery used to treat abdominal aortic aneurysm

Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR), is a type of minimally-invasive endovascular surgery used to treat pathology of the aorta, most commonly an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). When used to treat thoracic aortic disease, the procedure is then specifically termed TEVAR for "thoracic endovascular aortic/aneurysm repair." The procedure involves the placement of an expandable stent graft within the aorta to treat aortic disease without operating directly on the aorta. In 2003, EVAR surpassed open aortic surgery as the most common technique for repair of AAA, and in 2010, EVAR accounted for 78% of all intact AAA repair in the United States.

Abdominal trauma

Abdominal trauma is an injury to the abdomen. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, tenderness, rigidity, and bruising of the external abdomen. Complications may include blood loss and infection.

Thoracic aorta injury

Injury of the thoracic aorta refers to any injury which affects the portion of the aorta which lies within the chest cavity. Injuries of the thoracic aorta are usually the result of physical trauma; however, they can also be the result of a pathological process. The main causes of this injury are deceleration and crush injuries. There are different grades to injuries to the aorta depending on the extent of injury, and the treatment whether surgical or medical depends on that grade. It is difficult to determine if a patient has a thoracic injury just by their symptoms, but through imaging and a physical exam the extent of injury can be determined. All patients with a thoracic aortic injury need to be treated either surgically with endovascular repair or open surgical repair or with medicine to keep their blood pressure and heart rate in the appropriate range. However, most patients that have a thoracic aortic injury do not live for 24 hours.

Familial aortic dissection

Familial aortic dissection or FAD refers to the splitting of the wall of the aorta in either the arch, ascending or descending portions. FAD is thought to be passed down as an autosomal dominant disease and once inherited will result in dissection of the aorta, and dissecting aneurysm of the aorta, or rarely aortic or arterial dilation at a young age. Dissection refers to the actual tearing open of the aorta. However, the exact gene(s) involved has not yet been identified. It can occur in the absence of clinical features of Marfan syndrome and of systemic hypertension. Over time this weakness, along with systolic pressure, results in a tear in the aortic intima layer thus allowing blood to enter between the layers of tissue and cause further tearing. Eventually complete rupture of the aorta occurs and the pleural cavity fills with blood. Warning signs include chest pain, ischemia, and hemorrhaging in the chest cavity. This condition, unless found and treated early, usually results in death. Immediate surgery is the best treatment in most cases. FAD is not to be confused with PAU and IMH, both of which present in ways similar to that of familial aortic dissection.

Retroperitoneal bleeding

Retroperitoneal bleeding is an accumulation of blood in the retroperitoneal space. Signs and symptoms may include abdominal or upper leg pain, hematuria, and shock. It can be caused by major trauma or by non-traumatic mechanisms.

Open aortic surgery Surgical technique

Open aortic surgery (OAS), also known as open aortic repair (OAR), describes a technique whereby an abdominal, thoracic or retroperitoneal surgical incision is used to visualize and control the aorta for purposes of treatment. OAS is used to treat aneurysms of the abdominal and thoracic aorta, aortic dissection, acute aortic syndrome, and aortic ruptures. Aortobifemoral bypass is also used to treat atherosclerotic disease of the abdominal aorta below the level of the renal arteries. In 2003, OAS was surpassed by endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) as the most common technique for repairing abdominal aortic aneurysms in the United States. In OAS for abdominal aortic aneurysm, the aneurysmal portion of the aorta is replaced with a graft, usually made of dacron or PTFE.

Inflammatory aortic aneurysm

Inflammatory aortic aneurysm (IAA), also known as Inflammatory abdominal aortic aneurysm (IAAA), is a type of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) where the walls of the aneurysm become thick and inflamed. Similar to AAA, IAA occurs in the abdominal region. IAA is closely associated and believed to be a response to and extensive peri-aneurysmal fibrosis, which is the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue in a reparative or reactive process IAA accounts for 5-10% of aortic aneurysms. IAA occurs mainly in a population that is on average younger by 10 years than most AAA patients. Some common symptoms of IAA may include back pain, abdominal tenderness, fevers, weight loss or elevated Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) levels. Corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive drugs have been found to decrease symptoms and the degree of peri-aortic inflammation and fibrosis

Endovascular and hybrid trauma and bleeding management is a new and rapidly evolving concept within medical healthcare and endovascular resuscitation. It involves early multidisciplinary evaluation and management of hemodynamically unstable patients suffering from traumatic injuries as well as being a bridge to definitive treatment. It has recently been shown that the EVTM concept may also be applied to non-traumatic hemodynamically unstable patients.


  1. Ruptured Aortic Aneurysm at Patient UK. Original Author: Laurence Knott. Current Version: Gurvinder Rull. Peer Reviewer: Hannah Gronow. Last Checked: 16/05/2012
  2. Brown, LC; Powell, JT (September 1999). "Risk factors for aneurysm rupture in patients kept under ultrasound surveillance. UK Small Aneurysm Trial Participants". Annals of Surgery. 230 (3): 289–96, discussion 296-7. doi:10.1097/00000658-199909000-00002. PMC   1420874 . PMID   10493476.