Aortic dissection: a 250-year perspective

Tex Heart Inst J. 2011;38(6):694-700.


Two hundred fifty years have passed since Frank Nicholls' history-making, accurate observations on the anatomic findings and cause of death of King George II were published. Several decades later, the disease was named, using--for the first time--the terms dissection and dissecting attached to an aortic disease process. Another century went by before effective surgical treatment was developed. In sharp contrast, the evolution of the last 20 years has been nothing short of amazing. Our understanding of AD, while not yet complete, has improved dramatically. In addition, the introduction of nonsurgical endovascular therapy has had a profoundly transformative impact--and we are just at the beginning! It would not be unreasonable to predict that stent-graft repair will likely replace (or nearly replace) open surgery in the treatment of complicated type B dissection in the near future, especially as technologies continue to improve and indication-specific designs are developed and tested in the clinical setting. Moreover, it is predictable that endovascular solutions for some patients with type A aortic dissection will become available in the years to come as surgical results continue to be suboptimal. Finally, and amidst this plethora of “good news,” it is appropriate to reflect on the formidable challenge that endovascular therapies face as they gear to “compete” with optimal medical therapy in the management of patients with acute uncomplicated type B dissection, because it will obviously be difficult (if not impossible) to improve on the already-achieved 30-day mortality rate of less than 10%. Long-term gains may well become the winning card when and if the late results of TEVAR can be shown to improve on the rather compromised outlook of medically treated dissection patients. Stay tuned.

Keywords: Acute disease; Marfan syndrome/complications; aneurysm, dissecting/classification/etiology/history/therapy; aorta, thoracic/pathology; aortic aneurysm, thoracic; aortic arch syndromes; blood vessel prosthesis implantation; pathology; vascular surgical procedures.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / diagnosis
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / etiology
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / history*
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / surgery
  • Aortic Aneurysm / diagnosis
  • Aortic Aneurysm / etiology
  • Aortic Aneurysm / history*
  • Aortic Aneurysm / surgery
  • Blood Vessel Prosthesis Implantation / history
  • Endovascular Procedures / history
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / history*