Background: Although pulmonary autograft is being increasingly used to replace the diseased aortic valve with excellent long-term results, its use in the population with rheumatic disease still needs careful evaluation.
Patients and methods: From October 1993 through March 1998, 102 patients underwent aortic valve replacement with a pulmonary autograft (Ross procedure). The mean age was 27.9 +/- 4.2 years (range, 0.8-56 years). The cause was rheumatic disease in 75 patients (73%), bicuspid aortic valve in 26 patients (26%), and myxomatous aortoarteritis in 1 patient (1%). The root replacement technique was used in all. In addition, 31 patients had 33 associated procedures: mitral valve repair (n = 15 patients), open mitral commissurotomy (n = 15 patients), tricuspid repair (n = 2 patients), and homograft mitral valve replacement (n = 1 patient).
Results: Operative mortality was 6.9% (7 patients). Late mortality was 7.8% (8 patients). Follow-up ranged from 1 to 60 months (mean, 25.3 +/- 15.4 months) and was 98% complete. Two patients required reoperation for failed mitral valve repair, and 2 other patients underwent reoperation for failure of both the autograft and mitral valve repair. Echocardiographic assessment showed moderate to severe aortic regurgitation in 13 patients, along with thickening of the autograft. All of these patients had rheumatic disease and were young (<30 years). Ten of these patients had undergone associated mitral valve procedure. Morphologic and histopathologic examination of explanted autografts showed features compatible with rheumatic valvulitis.
Conclusion: Pulmonary autograft is susceptible to rheumatic involvement. Young age (<30 years) and associated mitral valve disease are significant risk factors for autograft failure in patients with rheumatic disease. Use of pulmonary autograft in this subgroup of patients requires a cautious approach.