Selected patients with acute type A (ascending) aortic dissection who are treated with delayed operation or nonoperative therapy may have better early and short-term outcomes than was previously expected.
Design and Setting
Retrospective cohort at a university hospital.
Data on 75 patients with acute or chronic type A aortic dissection treated at one institution from January 1, 1985, to November 30, 1997, were analyzed. Of these 75 patients, 34 (21 male and 13 female, with a mean age of 65.5 years) did not undergo initial operative treatment, and 15 (10 male and 5 female, with a mean age of 72.6 years) never underwent surgery. For the 19 patients who underwent delayed surgery, the mean period between aortic dissection and intervention was 11.4±4.83 days. The follow-up period ranged from 0.27 to 149 months, with a mean of 20.2 months.
Main Outcome Measures
Vascular complications, hospital mortality, and early survival.
Reasons for interval delay in surgical treatment included initial misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis (13 [68%] of 19), need to address significant comorbidity (4 [21%] of 19), and initial refusal of operative intervention (2 [11%] of 19). For the 15 patients treated entirely by medical therapy, reasons for electing nonoperative management included extensive comorbidity (5 [33%] of 15), refusal of surgical intervention (6 [40%] of 15), and misdiagnosis or long delay in diagnosis (4 [27%] of 15). Of the 34 patients, 15 (44%) presented with moderate or severe aortic insufficiency, 5 (14%) had evidence of pericardial effusion, 6 (21%) had evidence of concomitant coronary ischemia on electrocardiogram, and 8 (24%) had extension of the dissection into the descending aorta. Four patients (11.8%) died while in the hospital. Of the 34 patients, 30 (88%) who underwent either delayed or no surgery received aggressive medical treatment (β-adrenergic blocking agents and afterload-reducing agents) and were discharged from the hospital. All patients who were operative candidates in the interval treatment group survived to reach definitive operation. There was no statistically significant difference in short-term survival between the group of patients undergoing delayed surgery or medical treatment only and the group of 41 patients undergoing early operation (P=.42).
Immediate surgical therapy is still recommended for acceptable operative candidates with acute type A aortic dissection who seek immediate treatment. However, this study permits the following 2 conclusions: (1) patients with type A aortic dissection who are referred or whose conditions are diagnosed several days after presentation have survived the early dangerous period and can safely undergo surgery semielectively (rather than emergently); and (2) selected patients who are not considered operative candidates and who survive the initial type A aortic dissection without complication may be treated with aggressive medical therapy and achieve acceptable early and short-term outcomes, which is better than previously expected.