An in vitro model was used to determine the influence of tear depth on the propagation pressure of aortic dissections. Saline was injected into the media of segments of 20 porcine thoracic aortas to create blebs. A circumferential slit was made on the intimal side of each bleb, connecting the true lumen to the false lumen. Each aorta was then pressurized under no-flow conditions until propagation in either the anterograde or retrograde direction occurred. Histological sections of each principal propagating edge were used to determine depth of tear, measured as the ratio of elastin layers in the intimal flap to the elastin layers in the intact wall. Propagation occurred for tear depths ranging from 0.44 to 0.89, with dissections closest to the adventitia (with tear depths near 1) requiring the lowest pressures. Propagation pressure (P) depends on the number of elastin layers (L) in the outer wall of a dissection, P = 0.44 L + 25(kPa), r2 = 0.465, p = 0.003 and also on tear depth (d): P = -58 d + 81(kPa), r2 = 0.547, p < 0.001. Various in vivo factors are discussed which may affect these experimentally determined relationships.