An acute aortic tear can be lethal, and more cardiac surgeons are favoring extended aortic arch replacement in these cases. Cardiac surgeons have tried many different arch replacement techniques, but en bloc repair and double- or triple-branch stent grafting carry significant risks, so a team of cardiac surgeons in Beijing has reported good 2-year results with a novel technique that combines stented elephant-trunk implantation with preservation of key vessels.

The technique accomplishes total arch replacement with the stent while preserving the autologous brachiocephalic vessels.

“This technique simplified hemostasis and anastomosis, reduced the size of the residual aortic patch wall, and preserved the autologous brachiocephalic vessels, yielding satisfactory surgical results,” wrote Dr. Li-Zhong Sun and colleagues at Beijing’s Capital Medical University (J. Thorac. Cardiovasc. Surg. 2015 [doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2015.03.002 ]).

There are four keys to the procedure:

• The use of forceps to grasp the stent-free sewing edge of the stented elephant trunk and straightening of the spiral shaped Dacron graft to approximately 3 cm.

• Preservation of the native brachiocephalic vessels.

• Creating a residual aortic wall containing the innominate artery and LCCA that’s as small as possible.

• An end-to-side anastomosis between the left subclavian artery (LSCA) and the left common carotid artery (LCCA), a key junction in their technique.

The 20 study subjects had surgery within 2 weeks of the onset of pain. All 20 were discharged after the procedure, and in a mean follow-up period of 26 months, 18 had good outcomes while 1 patient had thoracoabdominal aortic replacement 9 months after the initial surgery (1 patient was lost to follow-up).

The researchers used computed tomography to confirm patency of the anastomosis between the LSCA and LCCA.

In 2 of the 20 patients, the aorta was normal with aortic dissection limited to the descending aorta. In the remaining patients, the investigators observed thrombus obliteration of the false lumen around the surgical graft in 16, partial thrombosis in 1 and patency in 1.

The surgical technique exposes the right axillary artery through a right subclavicular incision and a median sternotomy, then dissects and exposes the brachiocephalic vessels and the transverse arch. Dissection of the LSCA and LCCA is the key step in making the end-to-end anastomosis between the two vessels. The researchers accomplished this by partially transecting the sternocleidomastoid muscle and other cervical muscles.

Dr. Sun and coauthors said that a separated graft technique offers a number of advantages over other techniques for aortic arch reconstruction. While en bloc repair preserves the native brachiocephalic vessels and, thus, results in long-term patency, the technique carries risk for postoperative rupture of the aortic patch containing the brachiocephalic vessels. Double- or triple-branched stent grafting has resulted in shifting or kinking of the graft and eventually graft occlusion or aortic disruption.

The authors acknowledged the study’s small sample size, and that the outcomes are “preliminary.” They said long-term follow-up would be required to confirm the outcomes.

They had no disclosures to report.


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