What symptoms should make me suspect I may have an aortic dissection?

Severe, abrupt pain. Pain that is abrupt in onset and severe in intensity is the most common symptom with aortic dissection (roughly 90% of cases). Because of the size and location of the aorta, pain may be experienced as either chest pain, back pain, or abdominal pain. Additionally, pain that feels like ripping or tearing in any of these areas should raise a concern for aortic dissection.
Severe pain. Severe pain in back of chest or abdomen could mean aortic dissection.

Related Questions

For how long do aortic dissection symptoms last?

Dissection. The pain of aortic dissection can stop when the dissection stabilizes, the patient dies or has effective treatment. The time any of these takes is highly variable.

How can I tell if my symptoms are an aortic dissection or aneurism?

Pain. Aortic dissections in the acute stage (less than 3 weeks old) are classically described as a "tearing chest pain that radiates to the back" when they occur in the chest, which is their most common location. Aortic aneurysms are generally asymptomatic, but can cause abdominal or back pain, depending on their location.

When heart attack is suspected is it permissible to give blood thinners before ruling out aortic dissection?

Yes. Heart attacks occur much more often than aortic dissections. I would not blame anybody for trying to protect or treat for a heart attack with anticoagulants at least aspirin. In order to rule out dissection you need an angiogram or ct scan which is time comsumming. If fibrinolytics are considered (tpa (alteplase) or similar) I would probably wait to see the ct scan first. Dissect. Gives asymm. Bps, back pain.
No. If the diagnosis is clearly a heart attack, then thrombolytic therapy or angioplasty/ stenting is the standard therapy. If an aortic dissection is a possibility, it is imperative to rule this in or out before administering thrombolytics.

I experienced a sudden ripping pain from solar plexus to sternum after coughing. It only lasted 20 seconds ans hasn't come back. Is this likely a symptom of an aortic dissection?

Less likely. If caused by coughing much more likely to be muscle related. An aortic dissection would more likely have searing pain through to the back and you'd feel unwell. There is also the possibility of referred pain from lung or other structure so best to have an examination by a doctor of your chest and upper abdomen and if doubt remains tests can be ordered. Check urgently if breathing troubles.
Symptom not likely. Symptom? Yes. Likely? No. The fact that you are still able to type (& alive) generally means that you did not have an aortic dissection. Usually, with aortic dissection there are other symptoms as well - profuse sweating, alterations in blood pressure, etc. Most likely, you had a strain of an abdominal muscle. However, to be sure, you probably ought to relay your Sx to your clinic primary doctor.

With significant cardiac family history (bypass, heart attack, aortic dissection x3) what tests should I request for myself; some symptoms of concern?

See MD. It seems you have high risk factors of atherosclerois, heart attack. The most common cause of aortic aneurysm is athersclerosis (historic only, used to be syphilis). Since you have the risks, see your doctor and discuss all the tests necessary, and there are some tests we don't usually perform in most people. Then discuss how to decrease the risks. Good luck.
See cardiologist. You need a basic screening - physical exam, blood work (lipid panel, cholesterol, glucose), and most likely a stress test by a cardiologist. Need to reduce/eliminate risk factors (weight, exercise, diet) symptoms would be chest pain (dull, pressure, esp. With exercise), shortness of breath family history is highly predictive of risk.

Granmother died of MI in 1980's in her late 50's early 60's. If she had an aortic dissection would MI still be stated as cause or would it be specific?

Cause of death. In many cases, a death certification or other determination of cause of death is a best guess. For example, if a patient had chest pain followed by sudden death at home, and there was not diagnostic testing or autopsy, myocardial infarction might be the likely & assumed COD. But pulmonary embolism or aortic dissection or a malignant arrhythmia might present with a similar history.

Possible aortic dissection in teen?

Sure. Typically in the young if a dissection is considered it is related to trauma or a congenital connective tissue disease such as ehler's danlos or marfans.
See a doctor. Aortic dissection is a life threatening emergency. Unlikely in teens but possible especially if there is a connective tissue disorder. If you have any concern about an aortic dissection, seek medical attention immediately.

Can aortic dissection be inherited?

Yes. If associated with inheritable collagen diseases. However, it is usually related to elevated blood pressure.