How are complications managed following surgical repair for thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAA)?

Updated: Apr 02, 2021
  • Author: Elaine Tseng, MD; Chief Editor: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM  more...
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Early morbidity and mortality are related to bleeding, neurologic injury (eg, stroke), cardiac failure, and pulmonary failure (eg, acute respiratory distress syndrome [ARDS]). Risk factors include emergency operation, older age, dissection, congestive heart failure (CHF), prolonged cardiopulmonary bypass time, arch replacement, previous cardiac surgery, need for concomitant coronary revascularization, and reoperation for bleeding. Late mortality is usually related to cardiac disease or distal aortic disease.

Bleeding is a potential complication for all aneurysm repairs. It is minimized by the use of antifibrinolytics, felt strips, and factors, including fresh frozen plasma and platelets. For patients who undergo hypothermic circulatory arrest, the use of aprotinin is controversial, but most groups routinely use aminocaproic acid. Coagulopathy and bleeding in severe cases may warrant the use of recombinant factor VII.

Aprotinin, an antifibrinolytic agent used to reduce operative blood loss in patients undergoing open heart surgery, is now only available via a limited-access protocol. Fergusson et al reported an increased risk for death compared with tranexamic acid or aminocaproic acid in high-risk cardiac surgery. [46]

Stroke is a major cause of morbidity and mortality and typically results from embolization of atherosclerotic debris or clot. Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) and epiaortic ultrasonography may be beneficial in localizing appropriate areas to clamp. Patients undergoing arch repairs are at the highest risk of permanent and transient neurologic injury. Retrograde cerebral perfusion is beneficial for flushing out embolic debris, but it may be detrimental, with increased intracranial pressure and cerebral edema. Antegrade cerebral perfusion is beneficial for reducing neurologic injury during hypothermic circulatory arrest. Stroke incidence for open surgical repair versus endovascular repair of descending TAAs is equivalent.

Myocardial infarction may occur with technical problems with coronary ostia implantation during root replacement for ascending aortic aneurysms and may require reoperation. Pulmonary dysfunction and renal dysfunction are other potentially morbid complications.

Paraparesis and paraplegia, either acute or delayed, are the most devastating complications of descending thoracic aneurysm and thoracoabdominal aneurysm repairs. Despite cerebrospinal drainage, reimplantation of intercostal arteries, evoked potential monitoring, mild hypothermia, and atrial femoral bypass, spinal cord injury still occurs. Endovascular stent grafting has not eliminated spinal cord paraplegia; the incidence varies widely, with an overall incidence of 2.7%. [30, 47, 48, 49]

Complications specific to endovascular stenting include endoleaks, stent fractures, stent graft migration or thrombosis, iliac artery rupture, retrograde dissection, microembolization, aortoesophageal fistula, and complications at the site of delivery (eg, groin infection, lymphocele, seroma).

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