Misdiagnosis of aortic dissection: experience of 361 patients

J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2012 Apr;14(4):256-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7176.2012.00590.x. Epub 2012 Feb 14.


Aortic dissection (AD) is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate diagnosis and surgical correction. Patients with acute AD usually present clinically with an insignificant medical history, leading to a high probability of misdiagnosis. The aim of the present study was to investigate the number of misdiagnoses of patients with AD in order to understand this problem and to avoid future misdiagnosis in the emergency department. Clinical data from 361 patients with AD admitted between January 2003 and June 2008 were reviewed as part of a retrospective chart review. Diagnosis of AD was made using either chest x-ray, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or angiography. Fifty-one patients had an initial misdiagnosis (14.1%), later found to have experienced AD. The condition may clinically present in a varied number of manifestations, including syncope, chest pain, abdominal pain, back pain, acute congestive heart failure, or alternatively with minimal symptoms. Persons of any age can experience an AD, with key clinical manifestations of pain. Echocardiography can be used for primary examination of patients with suspected AD; however, a definite diagnosis is usually made using computed tomographic or magnetic resonance angiography. Care should be taken, particularly in the emergency department, to maintain a level of suspicion for AD diagnosis in order to avoid the potential for misdiagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / diagnosis*
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / diagnostic imaging
  • Aneurysm, Dissecting / pathology
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Thoracic / diagnosis*
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Thoracic / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Thoracic / pathology
  • Chest Pain
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Errors*
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Young Adult