The natural history and outcomes for thoracic and abdominal penetrating aortic ulcers

Shaun M. Gifford, Audra A. Duncan, Lawrence E. Greiten, Peter Gloviczki, Gustavo S. Oderich, Manju Kalra, Mark D. Fleming, Thomas C. Bower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective The objective of this report was to define the natural history of penetrating aortic ulcers (PAUs) in the descending thoracic and abdominal aorta. Methods Data from consecutive patients with PAU from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2012 were retrospectively reviewed. Computed tomography (CT) scans were analyzed for anatomic changes. End points analyzed were changes in size, development of symptoms or signs of rupture, morbidity, and mortality. Results Ninety-three patients were identified; 57 were followed up with two or more CT studies 3 months apart (group 1), and 20 had immediate repair (group 2). Sixteen had one CT scan and no intervention or follow-up and were excluded from analysis. In group 1, mean age was 75 years (29 men, 28 women), with 28 descending thoracic aorta and 29 abdominal aorta PAUs. Fifty patients were asymptomatic, whereas five had pain and two had emboli. Mean follow-up was 38 months (range, 3-108 months). Ulcer growth rate was as follows: length, 2.0 mm/y; depth, 1.2 mm/y; and aortic diameter, 2.2 mm/y. Thirteen (23%) went on to repair at a mean of 37 months after diagnosis because of size (54%; 7/13), rapid growth (31%; 4/13), and high-risk morphology (15%; 2/13). During surveillance, 11 patients died, 10 of unrelated causes, and 1 of rupture after refusing repair. All repairs in group 1 were endovascular. The 30-day surgical mortality was 0%. One patient had an access site complication requiring bypass after descending thoracic aorta PAU repair. At a mean follow-up of 32 months, all ulcers were excluded on CT; one (8%) had a type II endoleak. Group 2 included 13 men and seven women with a mean age of 70 years, with 12 descending thoracic and eight abdominal aorta PAUs. Repair indications were rupture (n = 3), symptoms (n = 10), or size (n = 7) and included one open and 19 endovascular repairs with 0% 30-day mortality. Major complications (3/20; 15%) included myocardial infarction, access site disruption, and hematoma; four of 20 patients had type II endoleaks. Conclusions PAU growth rate and risk of rupture are low. Endovascular repair of symptomatic, ruptured, and large PAUs is safe and effective with excellent long-term results. For asymptomatic PAUs, serial CT surveillance is associated with a low rate of rupture or complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1182-1188
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of vascular surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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