Acute aortic dissections are catastrophic vascular events that have a high rate of mortality. Aortic dissections have been associated with a variety of factors, particularly hypertension. We reviewed 84 medical examiner autopsies on individuals dying from acute aortic dissections with particular emphasis on the role of drugs. Previous case reports have associated aortic dissections with both cocaine and methamphetamine intoxication.
We found that seven of the 35 cases tested for drugs of abuse were positive for methamphetamine. Our study had no cases of solely cocaine-related dissection, although one of the cases was positive for both methamphetamine and the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine. No significant association was found with any other drugs. As with other studies, we found the most common risk factor to be hypertension. Surprisingly, methamphetamine use was the second most common risk factor. The association between methamphetamine use and aortic dissection is most likely due to its hypertensive effect. Although methamphetamine appears to pose a greater risk than cocaine, both drugs should be considered as possible factors in all aortic dissections.
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