Strategic Advance in AD Management in Southern England

The new NHS England SOP for acute aortic dissection in the South East and South West revolutionises patient care by standardising diagnosis and treatment pathways.


March 2024

Advancing care across

the South East and South West of England

In partnership with

South England Aortic Dissection Network

Today’s launch of the new NHS England Southern supra-regional Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for acute aortic dissection management marks a significant development in patient care within the South East and South West regions. This initiative, spearheaded by the South East and South West Cardiac Clinical Networks, introduces a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis, initial care, and treatment of this life-threatening condition.

The SOP: A Comprehensive Framework

Developed in alignment with the NHS England Acute Aortic Dissection Toolkit, the SOP addresses key components of acute aortic dissection management. It includes detailed protocols for imaging techniques essential for accurate diagnosis, strategies for patient stabilisation, and guidelines for the safe transfer of patients to specialised care centres. The development of the SOP is a result of extensive collaboration between healthcare professionals, incorporating patient feedback to ensure a patient-centred care approach.

The SOP underscores the significance of maintaining a high index of suspicion, the immediate availability of CT scans for diagnosis, and the rapid initiation of anti-impulse therapy for stabilisation.

The audience at the launch included the broad spectrum of healthcare professionals involved in the management of acute aortic dissection, including emergency department physicians, vascular surgeons, cardiac specialists, cardiologists, radiologists, and intensive care unit doctors. The event also welcomed ambulance service staff responsible for patient transfers, service managers, and, importantly, patients, families, and carers from the SE and SW regions, emphasising the importance of a collaborative and informed approach to care.

Core Principles of the SOP

The SOP is structured around the seven principles outlined in the NHSE Acute Aortic Dissection Pathway Toolkit:


  • Regional Governance: Ensuring consistent and high-quality care across the region through effective oversight and regulation.
  • Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) & MDT Meetings (MDMs): Harnessing the expertise of various specialists to provide comprehensive patient care.
  • Regional Rotas & Single Point of Contact for Referrals: Streamlining the referral process to ensure rapid response and treatment.
  • Timely & Reliable Image Transfer: Facilitating the quick and secure sharing of diagnostic images between hospitals.
  • Safe Critical Care Patient Transfer from ED to Arterial Centre: Ensuring the safe and efficient transportation of patients to specialised centres for optimal care.
  • Specialist Treatment of All Acute Aortic Dissection: Providing targeted and specialised treatment to all patients suffering from acute aortic dissection.
  • Regional Education Programme: Educating healthcare professionals on the latest developments and best practices in aortic dissection management.

Regional Outreach and Patient Involvement

The charity has been a cornerstone in supporting the implementation and rollout of the toolkit nationally. As an example, we recently extended our support to the North West of England, Wales, and the Isle of Man, hosting a similar event last year. This reflects our commitment to ensuring that all regions across the UK are equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge to manage acute aortic dissection effectively.

We are particularly excited to have seen patients and their families being given a voice at this event. It was with great pleasure that Bob Harris OBE, our esteemed ambassador, joined the day to share his personal experience with acute aortic dissection. Bob’s story gives invaluable insight into the impact of this condition.

Bob Harris aortic dissection BBC radio 2

Incorporating patient perspectives is essential in our work. These experiences offer vital insights into the real-world effects of medical conditions, helping us to understand and address these challenges more effectively. This approach ensures our healthcare solutions are not only informed by clinical knowledge but also shaped by the valuable experiences of those directly affected.

A Forward Step in Coordinated Care

The introduction of the SOP represents a significant step towards improving the management of acute aortic dissection, with an emphasis on patient-centred, coordinated care. By standardising pathways and fostering collaboration among HCP, the initiative will enhance the quality of care for the 1,000-1,500 patients each year facing this urgent medical condition across the South East and South West regions. We look forward to the next regional event.

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