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Thoracoabdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair: Open Technique

  • Joseph Huh
    Affiliations
    The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, and the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
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  • Scott A. LeMaire
    Correspondence
    Address reprint requests to Scott A. LeMaire, MD, One Baylor Plaza, BCM 390, Houston, TX 77030
    Affiliations
    The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, and the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
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  • Scott A. Weldon
    Affiliations
    The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, and the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
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  • Joseph S. Coselli
    Affiliations
    The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, and the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
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      Thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms by definition traverse the diaphragm and involve portions of both the thoracic and the abdominal aorta. The most common causes remain age-related medial degeneration, which often coexists with atherosclerosis, and chronic aortic dissection. Genetically triggered connective tissue disorders, such as the Marfan and Loeys-Dietz syndromes, also play an important causal role in both thoracic aortic dissection and thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm formation.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • Volguina I.V.
      • et al.
      Spectrum of aortic operations in 300 patients with confirmed or suspected Marfan syndrome.
      Although thoracoabdominal aneurysms typically follow an indolent time course, they ultimately rupture, an event which is often fatal.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Rice D.C.
      • Schmittling Z.C.
      • et al.
      Emergency surgery for thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms with acute presentation.

      Preoperative Considerations

      Decisions about whether to proceed with operative repair must involve a risk-benefit analysis.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Miller III, C.C.
      • et al.
      Mortality and paraplegia after thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair: a risk factor analysis.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Miller III, C.C.
      • Conklin L.D.
      • et al.
      A new predictive model for adverse outcomes after elective thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
      Indications for repair include an aneurysm diameter of 5.5 to 6.5 cm, a growth rate of 1 cm/yr, or the presence of any symptoms attributable to the aneurysm. These criteria are relaxed in patients with a connective tissue disorder.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • Volguina I.V.
      • et al.
      Spectrum of aortic operations in 300 patients with confirmed or suspected Marfan syndrome.
      The Crawford classification (Fig. 1) categorizes thoracoabdominal aortic repairs by the anatomic extent of aortic replacement and, thereby, allows stratification of risk. Extent I repairs extend from the left subclavian artery to the visceral vessels, sparing the infrarenal aorta. Extent II repairs involve replacing the greatest extent of aorta, generally from the left subclavian artery to the aortic bifurcation. Extent III repairs extend from the midthoracic aorta (ie, below the sixth rib) into the abdominal aorta. Extent IV repairs start at the level of the diaphragm and extend into the abdominal aorta.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Crawford classification of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms.
      (Reprinted with permission from Coselli JS, Bozinovski J, LeMaire SA: Open surgical repair of 2286 thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms. Ann Thorac Surg 2007;83:S862-S864.)

      Strategies for Organ Protection

      Open repair of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms remains a technically demanding operation. Strategies and adjuncts for organ protection need to be considered and selectively used to prevent paraplegia, renal failure, and mesenteric ischemia.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      Tips for successful outcomes for descending thoracic and thoracoabdominal aneurysm procedures.
      These techniques include distal aortic perfusion with left heart bypass during the proximal anastomosis and moving the aortic clamp distally as each successive anastomosis is completed, both of which reduce organ ischemic time.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      Left heart bypass reduces paraplegia rates following thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
      Additionally, passive systemic hypothermia is important for both spinal cord and renal protection. Whenever possible, the kidneys are cooled actively by infusing cold crystalloid directly into the renal ostia with balloon catheters.
      • Köksoy C.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Curling P.E.
      • et al.
      Renal perfusion during thoracoabdominal aortic operations: cold crystalloid is superior to normothermic blood.
      Finally, motor-evoked potential spinal cord monitoring, cerebrospinal fluid drainage, and aggressive intercostal/lumbar artery reattachment are all employed to prevent paraplegia, especially in patients undergoing extent II repairs.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Köksoy C.
      • et al.
      Cerebrospinal fluid drainage reduces paraplegia after thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair: results of a randomized clinical trial.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Conklin L.D.
      • et al.
      Morbidity and mortality after extent II thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair.

      Operative Technique

      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2The patient is placed in a modified right lateral decubitus position, with the shoulders placed at 60° to 80° and the hips rotated to 30° to 40° from horizontal. The length and level of the incision varies according to the anatomic extent of the aneurysm. The incision is gently curved as it crosses the costal margin to reduce the risk of tissue necrosis at the apex of the lower portion of the musculocutaneous tissue flap. The sixth intercostal space is usually entered to optimize access to the distal aortic arch during extent I and II repairs, whereas a lower interspace is used to access the aorta during extent III and IV repairs. The diaphragm is divided in a circular fashion along the chest wall. Below the diaphragm, the retroperitoneum is entered lateral to the left colon, and medial visceral rotation is performed to expose the aorta. During this phase of the operation, the patient's temperature is allowed to slowly drift down to 32-34°C.
      (Printed with permission from Baylor College of Medicine.)
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 3Left heart bypass, with flows between 1500 and 2500 mL/min, provides distal aortic perfusion while the proximal aorta is cross-clamped. Left atrial drainage occurs through a cannula placed in the left inferior pulmonary vein. Arterial inflow can be provided via the left femoral artery, but our preference is to use the aorta near the level of the diaphragm. Two 9-French balloon catheters from the arterial arm are prepared for subsequent selective visceral perfusion. Two additional balloon catheters are connected to the system for delivering cold crystalloid solution to the renal arteries; the perfusate comprises lactated Ringer's solution, mannitol (12.5 g/L), and methylprednisolone (125 mg/L) and is cooled to 4°C.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr4
      Figure 4If the aneurysm neck has suitable anatomy, the cross-clamp is preferably applied distal to the left subclavian artery. When this is not feasible, the cross-clamp is applied between the left common carotid and left subclavian arteries (which potentially incurs a higher risk of both brain and spinal cord injury), and the left subclavian artery is occluded with a bulldog clamp. A distal aortic clamp is applied to isolate the proximal segment during left heart bypass. The aorta is opened, and shed blood is rapidly salvaged by cell saver suction. The blood is filtered and immediately re-transfused without being washed.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr5
      Figure 5The aorta is transected circumferentially. Clear visualization of the posterior wall prevents injury to the esophagus. The dissection membrane is excised (if present), and upper intercostal arteries are oversewn. Rapid ligation of the intercostal arteries provides hemostasis and maintains spinal perfusion pressure during distal aortic perfusion.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr6
      Figure 6Proximal anastomosis to a Dacron graft is completed by using 3-0 polypropylene suture. The anastomosis can be reinforced with interrupted pledgeted sutures to ensure hemostasis. Excessive reinforcement, however, is avoided because it can lead to narrowing of the anastomosis. The most commonly used graft diameters range from 22 to 26 mm.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr7
      Figure 7Once the proximal anastomosis is completed, the cross-clamp is moved down to the graft, and flow to the left subclavian artery is restored. Left heart bypass is discontinued, and the remainder of the aneurysm is opened distally. All distal anastomoses are performed in an “open” fashion without a distal clamp.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr8
      Figure 8After the dissection membrane is excised and atherosclerotic debris and thrombus are removed, the visceral branch vessels are identified, and suitable intercostal and lumbar arteries are selected. Stenosis involving the visceral arteries can be treated by performing endarterectomies or by placing balloon-expandable stents into the affected vessels.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Jamison A.L.
      • Carter S.A.
      • et al.
      Deployment of balloon expandable stents during open repair of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms: a new strategy for managing renal and mesenteric artery lesions.
      When selecting segmental arteries for reimplantation, those at levels T7 to L2 are considered to be particularly important in spinal circulation; we tend to reattach large, patent arteries with little or no back-bleeding. In aneurysms with extensive mural atherosclerosis, endarterectomy of the aortic wall and removal of intimal calcification is sometimes required to identify suitable segmental arteries for reattachment.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr9
      Figure 9Once the origins of the visceral arteries are accessible, balloon catheters attached to the arterial limb of the left heart bypass circuit are inserted, and perfusion to the celiac and superior mesenteric arteries is initiated, usually at a flow rate of 200 mL/min. Boluses of 400 to 600 mL of cold crystalloid are intermittently infused for direct renal cooling.
      • Köksoy C.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Curling P.E.
      • et al.
      Renal perfusion during thoracoabdominal aortic operations: cold crystalloid is superior to normothermic blood.
      With 3-0 or 4-0 polypropylene suture, the island surrounding the intercostal arteries is anastomosed in a side-to-side fashion to an opening created in the Dacron graft.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr10
      Figure 10To decrease organ ischemic times, the aortic cross-clamp can be moved distally with each successive anastomosis. The visceral arteries can be reimplanted in various patterns. The depicted pattern is the most common; the celiac, superior mesenteric, and right renal arteries are anastomosed as a single island patch, whereas the left renal artery is reimplanted separately. If the aortic wall is particularly fragile, as in patients with connective tissue disorders, a 4-branch Dacron graft is used for the repair. This allows separate grafts to be anastomosed to each visceral artery to minimize the risk of aortic patch aneurysm.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • Volguina I.V.
      • et al.
      Spectrum of aortic operations in 300 patients with confirmed or suspected Marfan syndrome.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr11
      Figure 11After the left renal artery is anastomosed to an opening in the graft, the cross-clamp is again moved distally to restore perfusion to the visceral vessels. The final anastomosis is completed just above the aortic bifurcation.
      (Reprinted with permission from LeMaire SA, Thompson RW. Surgical therapy, in Creager MA, Dzau VS, Loscalzo J (eds): Vascular Medicine. Philadelphia, WB Saunders, 2006, pp 517-532.)
      Figure thumbnail gr12
      Figure 12In staged repairs of extensive aneurysms involving the ascending aorta, aortic arch, and thoracoabdominal aorta, an “elephant trunk” extension of the arch graft is placed in the proximal descending aorta during the initial proximal aortic replacement.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • Coselli J.S.
      The elephant trunk technique for staged repair of complex aneurysms of the entire thoracic aorta.
      (A) The second-stage distal repair is typically performed after a 4- to 6-week interval, depending on the clinical urgency. (B) The elephant trunk is controlled by applying a clamp across the aneurysmal descending thoracic aorta; this avoids the need to expose a clamp site at the aortic arch, which carries a risk of injuring adherent structures, such as the esophagus and pulmonary artery. After the elephant trunk graft is retrieved and clamped, (C) a graft-to-graft anastomosis is completed with 2-0 polypropylene suture. The remainder of the distal repair is completed as described above.
      (Printed with permission from Baylor College of Medicine.)
      Figure thumbnail gr13
      Figure 13(A) In some cases of extensive ascending, arch, and thoracoabdominal disease, the distal segment needs to be repaired first because of related symptoms or a disproportionately large aneurysm; in these cases, the reversed “elephant trunk” repair is indicated.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • et al.
      The reversed elephant trunk technique used for treatment of complex aneurysms of the entire thoracic aorta.
      (B) The proximal anastomosis is created by using a Dacron graft that is invaginated within itself at the proximal end.
      (Reprinted with permission from Coselli et al.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • et al.
      The reversed elephant trunk technique used for treatment of complex aneurysms of the entire thoracic aorta.
      )
      Figure thumbnail gr14
      Figure 14The remainder of the distal thoracoabdominal repair is completed in standard fashion. In the scenario depicted, an extent I repair is performed by reimplanting selected intercostal arteries and suturing the beveled distal end of the graft behind the visceral vessels to exclude the aneurysmal tissue.
      (Reprinted with permission from Coselli et al.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • et al.
      The reversed elephant trunk technique used for treatment of complex aneurysms of the entire thoracic aorta.
      )
      Figure thumbnail gr15
      Figure 15(A) The completed first stage leaves a trunk suspended in the proximal aspect of the graft. (B) During the second operation, through an anterior approach and under hypothermic circulatory arrest, the reversed elephant trunk segment is retrieved. (C) The trunk is used to complete the arch repair, obviating the need for a distal anastomosis. (D) The completed reversed elephant trunk repair.
      (Reprinted with permission from Coselli et al.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • LeMaire S.A.
      • Carter S.A.
      • et al.
      The reversed elephant trunk technique used for treatment of complex aneurysms of the entire thoracic aorta.
      )

      Postoperative Management

      Vigilant postoperative management is essential to producing successful outcomes. Complications that are commonly associated with an increased risk of death include paraplegia, renal failure, respiratory failure, cardiac events, and bleeding. Adequate blood pressure, preload, and cardiac inotropic state must be maintained to keep spinal perfusion adequate. Meticulous postoperative blood pressure management is critical and must be balanced to avoid both hypertension, which can cause bleeding, and hypotension, which can lead to paraplegia or renal failure. Because aortic anastomoses are often extremely fragile during the early postoperative period, even brief episodes of hypertension should be avoided. In most cases, we use nitroprusside, intravenous beta-antagonists, and intravenous calcium channel blockers to keep the mean arterial blood pressure between 80 and 90 mm Hg. In patients with severely friable aortic tissue, such as those with Marfan syndrome, we use a target range of 70 to 80 mm Hg.
      Delayed paraplegia can occur hours to days after aortic surgery.
      • Wong D.R.
      • Coselli J.S.
      • Amerman K.
      • et al.
      Delayed spinal cord deficits after thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
      In the immediate postoperative period, strategies to prevent spinal cord ischemia include maintaining adequate systemic blood pressure, cerebrospinal fluid drainage to decrease intraspinal pressure, and administering cardiac inotropes as needed. We generally clamp the cerebrospinal fluid drain before removing it to be sure that ceasing drainage will not trigger a delayed deficit.
      Vocal cord paralysis, which can contribute to respiratory complications, should be suspected in patients with postoperative hoarseness and confirmed by direct examination. Direct cord medialization is an effective treatment.

      Contemporary Results

      Since 1986, we have repaired more than 2700 thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysms. In our contemporary series, in which we used our current organ protective strategies in 409 patients who underwent repairs of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm from 2006 through 2009, the in-hospital mortality rate was 6.4%; the incidence of permanent paraplegia was 2.4%, and the incidence of permanent renal failure requiring dialysis was 4.6%. Extent II and III aneurysms were associated with the highest rates of permanent paraplegia (4% each).

      Acknowledgments

      The authors thank Stephen N. Palmer, PhD, ELS, and Susan Y. Green, MPH, for invaluable editorial assistance.

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