A sinister cause of anterograde amnesia: Painless aortic dissection

Michael D. April, Kurt Fossum, Charles Hounshell, Katherine Stolper, Leigh Spear, Kevin Semelrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Aortic dissection is a frequently devastating diagnosis classically associated with severe chest pain.We present a case of painless aortic dissection with anterograde amnesia. An 84-year-old man was brought to the emergency department by ambulance, when his wife noted that he developed acute onset complete loss of short-termmemory. Medical history was notable for a 4.5-cm fusiform thoracic aortic root aneurysm. On arrival, he denied pain or syncope.On examination, hewas mildly hypotensive (110/59 mm Hg); and there were no murmurs, pulse deficits, or focal neurologic deficits. During his stay, he developed left flank pain. Chest radiography demonstrated subtlemediastinal widening and obscuration of the aortic knob comparedwith previous films. Computed tomography revealed an extensive intimal flap consistent with an aortic dissection involving the sinus of Valsalva and left renal artery. The patient subsequently developed acute onset chest pain after which he became unresponsive. Echocardiography demonstrated tamponade physiology. The family decided to transition to comfort care measures, and the patient died soon after.We identified 7 other cases in the literature of aortic dissection cases with presentations consistentwith transient global amnesia, 5 of which without neurologic deficits and 3 of which without pain. This case highlights the imperative of a thorough history and high index of suspicion for this catastrophic diagnosis in patientswith transient global amnesia who otherwise might be expected to have an excellent prognosis and little need for diagnostic work-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989.e5-989.e7
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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