Causes and Diagnoses

Causes, Prevention and Tests to Diagnose Aortic Dissections

There are multiple factors that may contribute to the development of an aortic dissection. These factors include:

  • Atherosclerosis (deposits of fat, cholesterol and calcium) inside the aorta
  • Connective tissue disorders (affecting muscle or skin), such as Marfan syndrome
  • Bicuspid aortic valve (heart valve defect that is present at birth)
  • Inflammatory disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Trauma to the chest
  • Family history of aneurysms or dissection


Some risk factors cannot be prevented, such as a family history of aneurysms.

However, there are some behaviors that can lower your risk of a thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection, including:

  • Monitoring and managing your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Not smoking cigarettes, using vape pens or any other tobacco products
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy diet


Care teams use these tests to help diagnose thoracic aortic aneurysms and dissections.

If you have a diseased aorta, you should get regular diagnostic tests. These tests help your care team monitor your aorta. By closely watching your aorta, your care team can detect changes in your aorta that may require surgery.

Meet the Aortic Dissection Team

Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care.
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