Date: 14 Feb 2012

Endovascular Therapy for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms: State of the Art in 2012

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Opinion statement

Conventional surgery for thoracic aortic pathology involves replacing the affected segment of aorta with an interposition graft and often requires the use of extracorporeal circulatory support with or without deep hypothermic circulatory arrest. Although operative results have improved consistently over 60 years, patients with extensive aneurysms face a considerable risk with conventional surgery, particularly when burdened with multiple comorbidities. Thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR) was first performed in 1994 and has become a well-established alternative therapy for many thoracic aortic pathologies. TEVAR is most frequently performed through a small groin incision to access the common femoral artery. Wires and catheters are used to deliver and deploy the stent graft in the thoracic aorta under fluoroscopic control. Occasionally, TEVAR is performed as part of a complex hybrid procedure including one stage of conventional open surgery that may utilize a thoracic incision and cardiopulmonary bypass support. The less invasive nature of TEVAR offers the potential for lower mortality and peri-procedural morbidity. Although long-term results of TEVAR are still being gathered, mid-term results are excellent and most late vascular complications can be treated with additional transcatheter procedures. Recent development of fenestrated and branched stent grafts is expanding the application of endovascular therapies to complex aortic pathologies involving the thoracoabdominal aorta and aortic arch. Although conventional techniques continue to be the gold standard for treatment of ascending aortic pathology, recent reports have proven TEVAR to be a viable alternative in specific situations. Design improvements continue to expand the indications for TEVAR, and technological advancements in the field of imaging facilitate safer and more accurate planning, delivery, and assessment of patients with thoracic aortic aneurysms. Hybrid operating rooms provide the optimal environment with state of the art imaging technology for the cardiovascular team to perform TEVAR or alternative hybrid procedures.