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Spontaneous coronary artery dissection — sometimes referred to as SCAD — is a rare emergency condition that occurs when a tear forms in one of the blood vessels in the heart.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) can slow or block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack, abnormalities in heart rhythm and sudden death.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) tends to affect people ages 30 to 50, though it can occur at any age. People who develop spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) are often healthy, and many don't have risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) can lead to sudden death if it isn't diagnosed and treated promptly. For this reason, seek emergency attention if you experience heart attack signs and symptoms — even if you think you aren't at risk for a heart attack.
Signs and symptoms of spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) include:
Chest pain A rapid heartbeat or fluttery feeling in the chest Pain in your arms, shoulders or jaw Shortness of breath Sweating Unusual, extreme tiredness Nausea Dizziness When to see a doctor
If you experience chest pain or suspect you're having a heart attack, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. If you don't have access to emergency medical services, have someone drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only as a last resort.
It's not clear what causes spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD).
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) causes a superficial tear inside an artery. When the inner layers of the artery separate from the outer layers, blood can pool in the area between the layers. The pressure of the pooling blood can make a short tear much longer. And blood trapped between the layers can form a blood clot.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) may slow blood flow through the artery to the heart, which makes the heart work harder. Or blood flow through the artery can be completely stopped, causing heart muscle to die (heart attack).