Dizziness can be caused by a variety of factors, but one rare cause is often fatal and almost cost a 50-year-old man his life, the Tung’s Taichung MetroHarbor Hospital said yesterday.
The man, surnamed Chen (陳), recently experienced dizziness, sudden chest pain and tightness in the middle of the night, but told doctors that he dismissed the symptoms because light-headedness and tinnitus had become common for him following an eardrum injury at work in 2011, hospital cardiovascular surgeon Lee Chih-hsien (李志賢) said.
“Chen’s symptoms worsened after daybreak and his wife rushed him to the hospital’s emergency care unit. Only then did Chen discover that the dizziness and chest pain were caused by aortic dissection,” Lee said.
Aortic dissection is a catastrophic cardiovascular injury in which a tear in the main artery in the human body allows blood to flow between its layers. While rare in general — happening to just three or four people out of 100,000 per year — it is considered one of the most common conditions that cause sudden death.
“When Chen arrived at the hospital at about 8:30am, his systolic blood pressure had dropped to below 70 millimeters of mercury. Our emergency care doctors quickly examined him and diagnosed him with cardiogenic shock resulting from acute aortic dissection and fluid buildup around the heart,” Lee said.
Lee said recognizing aortic dissection is a race against time, because every hour of delay in treatment increases the overall risk of mortality by 1 percent.
“Fortunately, we performed an artificial blood vessel placement procedure on Chen and cleared blood clots near the heart within an hour of his diagnosis. He has been discharged from the hospital and can return to normal life after a month of recuperation,” Lee said.
He said Chen’s blood pressure dropped after excess blood or fluid built up between the heart muscle and the surrounding tissue — a condition known as cardiac tamponade — and prevented his heart from pumping properly.
“In the meantime, the blood flow to Chen’s brain was disrupted after his aorta split, causing dizziness,” Lee said.
In addition to dizziness, aortic dissection can be accompanied by sudden chest and back pain, Lee said, adding that additional conditions may follow without treatment, such as shock, stroke-induced paralysis and myocardial infarction.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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