Aortic dissection (AD) causes more deaths each year in the United Kingdom than road traffic collisions. Yet the incidence of AD is not known. The management of acute type B AD (TBAD) is changing, with the greater use of thoracic aortic stent grafts (TEVAR) in treatment and fewer open surgical procedures performed. The study’s aim is to review the worldwide, English language published, literature on acute TBAD incidence and treatment, to report on its strengths and limitations, and better understand changes in incidence over time and between countries. Thirty-one studies were identified that focus on the epidemiology and treatment of TBAD. Eight of these studies report the incidence of acute TBAD as between of 0.5–6.3 per 100,000 person years. Hospital admissions for aortic dissection are reported to be increasing in six studies and stable in one study. The proportion of patients with TBAD operated on varies between studies (range 13% to 76%). Studies identify patient age (median 51–77 years), gender (range 48%–81% male) and prevalence of cardio-vascular risk factors, specifically hypertension, in the populations studied as independent factors influencing aortic dissection incidence. Treatment of acute TBAD remains largely conservative with analgesia, hypertension control and serial cross-sectional imaging (range 24%–87% TBAD medically treated). The use of TEVAR to treat acute AD is increasing worldwide (range 13%–76% TBAD treated with TEVAR). The incidence of TBAD is under-reported due to out of hospital deaths, variable clinical presentation (miss-diagnosis) and coding errors. Importantly for research, the single International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code for aortic dissection, I17.0, does not distinguish between acute, chronic, type A or type B dissection types. Similarly, the OPCS Classification of Interventions and Procedures version 4 (OPCS-4) codes for TEVAR, L27.4 and L28.4, do not distinguish between acute and chronic AD presentation, unlike the codes for open thoracic aortic replacement. Standardised reporting of aortic dissection type, and the urgency of both the initial presentation (acute or chronic) and treatment (emergency, urgent or planned) in future studies would allow more meaningful comparisons between populations.
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