A new study raises a cautionary note about the increasing use of a minimally invasive procedure to repair ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms, according to vascular surgeon Dr. Jae Sung Cho of Loyola University Medical Center.
A ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) causes massive internal bleeding that requires immediate emergency surgery to save the patient.
The rupture can be repaired either with an open surgery or with a newer, less-invasive endovascular technique that involves the use of a catheter.
At first glance, the endovascular technique would appear to be a better option because it is minimally invasive and has lower complication rates. It's being increasingly used to repair ruptured AAAs.
But a study in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, published online ahead of print, found that the endovascular technique does not conclusively improve survival.
In the retrospective study, Cho and colleagues compared 37 patients with ruptured AAAs who underwent emergency endovascular surgery and 241 patients with ruptured AAAs who underwent open surgery. The groups were matched by sex, age, surgeon experience, patient condition and other factors. The average age was 74.9 in the endovascular group and 75.6 in the open surgery group.
The endovascular group's probability of survival was 50 percent after the first year and 42 percent after three years. By comparison, the open surgery group's probability of surviving was 54 percent after the first year and 47 percent after three years.
The overall complication rate was 66 percent in the open surgery group and 54 percent in the endovascular surgery group, but this difference was not statistically significant.
Cho and colleagues wrote that preferential use of the endovascular technique "should be deferred until results of prospective, randomized trials are available and predictive factors for its success are identified. Some patients may be harmed by indiscriminate insistence on (the endovascular technique)."
The study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where Cho practiced before recently joining Loyola as chief of vascular surgery. Cho is a professor in the Department of Surgery, Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
An AAA is a bulge in the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen and legs. Risk factors for AAAs include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, male gender, emphysema, genetic factors, obesity and increasing age. The bulge typically develops slowly over many years. The larger the aneurysm, the more likely it is to rupture and cause massive bleeding. About 15,000 people per year die from ruptured AAAs. Many die before getting to the hospital. But certain patients can be saved if they make it to the hospital on time.