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Q: How do I know if I’m having an aortic emergency?

Acute aortic emergencies occur due to a problem in the aorta, which is the largest blood vessel in your body. The problem may lead to a tear in the wall of the aorta, known as a dissection. This life threatening emergency will cause a patient to have sharp, intense pain in the chest, neck or back such that the patient has never experienced before. Patients can also present with symptoms of a stroke such as slurred speech, altered mental status or numbness in an arm or leg.

If these symptoms occur, it is imperative to call 9-1-1 and seek immediate medical attention.

Patients should also be aware of their risk factors for aortic disease. Taking into consideration your family history is very important as 25% of aortic aneurysms are genetically caused. So, if you have a family history of aortic aneurysm, dissection, or unexplained sudden death, you may have an increased risk.

To learn more about nationally ranked Hoag’s Elaine & Robert Matranga Aortic Center, please visit

By Anthony Caffarelli, M.D.