Although aortic dissection is a dangerous condition, with proper care, it is possible to live a healthy life after dissection. It is very important that you follow the recommendations listed here, and those of your doctor, to ensure you do not have events related to your dissection after discharge from the hospital.
Maintaining good blood pressure control is essential. Your doctor will prescribe you medications to prevent high blood pressure, or hypertension. Most patients are given beta blockers, although you may need additional medications as well. Suddenly stopping your medication can result in hypertension; therefore, it is important to remember to refill your prescriptions and bring medicines with you while travelling. In addition to taking your medications as prescribed, you should avoid activities that will dramatically increase your blood pressure. This includes avoiding strenuous lifting, pushing, or straining. More information about appropriate exercises can be found in the physical section.
Studies have shown that survival is related to certain dissection characteristics, such as the size of the aorta and the amount of clotting in the false lumen. For this reason, it is important to have regular imaging of your aorta. This will help your doctor identify any problematic changes and recommend necessary procedures or new medications to prevent complications such as rupture. Guidelines for dissection survivors recommend imaging studies are done at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after discharge. The aorta is most likely to show adverse changes within the first year of dissection, so frequent imaging is very important. After one year, imaging will be performed yearly. These appointments are the best way to monitor your aorta, and you must follow the schedule laid out for you by your doctor.
Even if you have had a procedure, your dissection has not been cured, and you are still at risk for future problems with your aorta. It is important that you do the following:
- Take all of your medications, as prescribed
- Go to your imaging appointments – they should be schedule at 1, 3, and 6 months, and then yearly
- Check your blood pressure so you can tell your doctor if it is unusually high
- Talk to your doctor about starting an aerobic exercise program, which has been shown to help with blood pressure control
- Avoid things that will cause rapid increases in blood pressure, such as heavy weightlifting (either for exercise or at work)
- Do not take illegal drugs such as cocaine which can also cause rapid increases in blood pressure
If you follow the instructions above and communicate regularly with your doctor, you can avoid many problems associated with aortic dissection. Make sure to discuss any questions with your doctor or nurse. Taking care of your health is the best way to survive, and thrive, after dissection.