Early and late results following repair of dissections of the descending thoracic aorta

R. Kent Jex, Hartzell V. Schaff, Jeffrey M. Piehler, R. Michael King, Thomas A. Orszulak, Gordon K. Danielson, Peter C. Pairolero, James R. Pluth, Duane Ilstrup

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105 Scopus citations


Management of dissections of the descending thoracic aorta remains controversial, especially with regard to timing and method of repair. To clarify these and other issues we have reviewed our total experience with repair of descending aortic dissections between 1962 and 1983. The 44 men and 20 women had a mean (± SEM) age of 59 ± 2 years (range, 19 to 83 years), and in all patients the dissection originated in and was limited to the aorta distal to the left carotid artery (Stanford type B, DeBakey types IIIa and IIIb). Twenty-nine patients underwent operation within 2 weeks of the onset of symptoms (acute), and the remainder had later repair (chronic). During repair, circulation distal to the aortic cross-clamp was supported with cardiopulmonary bypass or shunt in two thirds of patients. Overall, 18 deaths occurred ≤30 days postoperatively (operative risk 28%), and risk was higher in acute (45%) than in chronic (14%) dissections. Operative risk was not significantly related to protection of the distal circulation. The most serious postoperative complication was spinal cord ischemia manifested by paraplegia in five patients (8%) and transient or permanent paraparesis in six patients (9%). Risk of spinal cord ischemia was significantly lower in patients who had protection of the distal circulation during operative repair (8% vs. 44%, p = 0.003). Late survival, including hospital deaths, was 49% ± 7% at 5 years after operation; 22 of the 46 patients who survived repair were found to have aneurysms involving the thoracic and/or abdominal segments of the aorta. Our results indicate that repair of chronic dissection of the thoracic aorta has a lower operative risk than repair of acute dissections, and initial medical management of acute dissection may be indicated if no early complications occur. Risk of spinal cord ischemia is significantly reduced by cardiopulmonary bypass or shunt and is preferred over aortic cross-clamping alone. Finally, these patients require careful long-term follow-up because of the high incidence of residual or recurrent aortic ancurysms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-237
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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