A previously asymptomatic 69-year-old lady, who recently travelled on a 4 h flight, presented with acute left-sided pleuritic pain, dyspnoea and calf pain. Blood gases revealed hypoxaemia and D-dimer was significantly elevated. She also had low-grade fever, leukocytosis and a small left-sided pleural effusion on chest x-ray. The working diagnosis was pulmonary embolism and chest infection and she received low molecular weight heparin and antibiotics. A subsequent CT pulmonary angiogram ruled out pulmonary embolism but revealed an abnormal finding in the ascending aorta, suggestive of a penetrating aortic ulcer. Urgent transoesophageal echocardiography was consistent with an intramural haematoma and the patient underwent emergency aortic root replacement with imminent aortic rupture confirmed at surgery. This case highlights the fact that acute aortic syndromes may have atypical presentations and also emphasises the fact that D-dimer levels are elevated in aortic syndromes.
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Competing interests None.
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