Up to half of all patients who suffer an acute aortic dissection may die before reaching crucial specialist care, according to a new Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) report.
The report highlights the difficulty which can face hospital staff in recognising acute aortic dissection. The investigation was triggered by the case of Richard, a fit and healthy 54-year old man, who arrived at his local emergency department by ambulance after experiencing chest pain and nausea during exercise. It took four hours before the diagnosis of an acute aortic dissection was made, and he spent a further hour waiting for the results of a CT scan. Although Richard was then transferred urgently by ambulance to the nearest specialist care centre, he sadly died during the journey.
The report has identified a number of risks in the diagnostic process which might result in the condition being missed. These include aortic dissection not being suspected because patients can initially appear quite well or because symptoms might be attributed to a heart or lung condition.
It also highlighted that, once the diagnosis is suspected, an urgent CT scan is required to confirm that an acute aortic dissection is present.
Gareth Owens, Chair of the national patient association Aortic Dissection Awareness UK & Ireland, welcomed the publication of HSIB’s report, saying: “HSIB’s investigation and report have highlighted that timely, accurate recognition of acute Aortic Dissection is a national patient safety issue. This is exactly what patients and bereaved relatives having been telling the NHS, Government and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine for several years."
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Source: HSIB, 23 January 2020