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Circulation. 2002 Apr 2;105(13):1592-5.

Acute aortic dissection related to crack cocaine.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, San Francisco General Hospital, CA 94110, USA.



Although single case reports have described acute aortic dissection in relation to cocaine use, this condition is not widely recognized, and the features of cocaine-related aortic dissection have not been defined.


We reviewed all available hospital charts from 1981 to 2001 with the ICD-9 diagnosis of aortic dissection. Among the 38 cases of acute aortic dissection, 14 (37%) were related to cocaine use. Crack cocaine was smoked in 13 cases and powder cocaine was snorted in 1 case. The mean interval between cocaine use and the onset of symptoms was 12 hours (range, 0 to 24). Patients with cocaine-related dissection were much younger and more likely to undergo surgery compared with patients with aortic dissection without cocaine use. Most in the cocaine group were black, with a history of untreated hypertension. However, the two groups did not differ in other respects, including dissection type.


In an inner city population, acute aortic dissection in the setting of crack cocaine use is common, presumably as a consequence of abrupt, transient, severe hypertension and catecholamine release. This diagnosis should be considered in cocaine users with severe chest pain.

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  • Cocaine-related aortic dissection in perspective. [Circulation. 2002]
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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