Acute aortic syndrome
Acute aortic syndrome (AAS) is a term used to describe a constellation of life-threatening aortic diseases that have similar presentation, but appear to have distinct demographic, clinical, pathological and survival characteristics. Many believe that the three major entities that comprise AAS: aortic dissection (AD), intramural hematoma (IMH) and penetrating aortic ulcer (PAU), make up a spectrum of aortic disease in which one entity may evolve into or coexist with another. Much of the confusion in accurately classifying an AAS is that they present with similar symptoms: typically acute onset of severe chest or back pain, and may have similar radiographic features, since the disease entities all involve injury or disruption of the medial layer of the aortic wall. The accurate diagnosis of an AAS is often made at operation. This manuscript will attempt to clarify the similarities and differences between AD, IMH and PAU of the ascending aorta and describe the challenges in distinguishing them from one another.