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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Acute Aortic Dissection in a Third Trimester Pregnancy without Risk Factors


Spontaneous aortic dissection in pregnancy is rare and life threatening for both the mother and the fetus. Most commonly, it is associated with connective tissue disorders, cardiac valve variants, or trauma. We present the case of a 23-year-old previously healthy woman, 36 weeks pregnant with a syncopal episode after dyspnea and vomiting. She subsequently developed cardiac arrest and underwent aggressive resuscitation, emergent thoracotomy, and cesarean delivery without recovery. On autopsy, she was found to have an aortic dissection of the ascending aorta. This case is presented to raise awareness and review the literature and the clinical approach to critical care for pregnant patients. [West J Emerg Med. 2011;12(4):571–574.]

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