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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection

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Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is a condition in which blood accumulates between the layers of tissue that make up the wall of the coronary artery (the vessel that supplies blood to the heart). The trapped blood then creates a blockage which interferes with blood flow to the heart. Depending on the degree of blockage, symptoms can range from chest pain to heart attack or cardiac arrest. [1][2] For some, the first symptom is a heart attack. If the blockage is partial, symptoms may include shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and fatigue (tiredness). [1][3] Though SCAD can occur at any age, most cases occur in otherwise healthy people between the ages of 30 and 50. It is more common in women. [1][4] SCAD is an urgent situation and requires immediate attention. [4][2] Though the exact cause of SCAD is not fully understood, risk factors include pregnancy, recently giving birth, very high blood pressure, and extreme exercise. [1][4][2] Certain conditions such as connective tissue disorders or fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) may also increase a person’s risk of developing SCAD. [1][2] Treatment depends on the signs and severity of the disease but may include allowing the dissection to heal on its own, medications to reduce the risk of clots, or percutaneous coronary intervention. Some cases require surgery. [1][5][2] People who have survived SCAD may be at risk for another dissection. [4] 
Last updated: 2/25/2016


  1. Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. Cleveland Clinic. December, 2015; Accessed 2/25/2016.
  2. SCAD Research. What is SCAD? Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed 2/25/2016.
  3. SCAD Alliance. SCAD Symptoms. Accessed 2/25/2016.
  4. SCAD Alliance. SCAD Definition. Accessed 2/25/2016.
  5. Douglas, Pamela and Saw, Jacqueline. Spontaneous coronary artery dissection. UpToDate. January, 2016; Accessed 2/25/2016.
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Basic Information

  • SCAD Research answers frequently asked questions (FAQs) about spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) on their website.

In Depth Information

  • The Monarch Initiative brings together data about this condition from humans and other species to help physicians and biomedical researchers. Monarch’s tools are designed to make it easier to compare the signs and symptoms (phenotypes) of different diseases and discover common features. This initiative is a collaboration between several academic institutions across the world and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Visit the website to explore the biology of this condition.
  • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.