Staged repair of extensive aortic aneurysms: morbidity and mortality in the elephant trunk technique

Circulation. 2001 Dec 11;104(24):2938-42. doi: 10.1161/hc4901.100362.


Background: Extensive aortic aneurysms (ascending aorta, aortic arch, and descending or thoracoabdominal aorta) require innovative surgical techniques. Some surgeons advocate a single procedure with long periods of profound hypothermia, whereas others use a staged approach. We adopted a two-staged procedure (elephant trunk technique) in 1991 for elective repair of extensive aortic aneurysms.

Methods and results: Between February 1991 and May 2000, we performed a total of 1146 aortic aneurysm operations. Of these, 182 (15.9%) operations were first- or second-stage elephant trunk procedures, performed in a total of 117 patients. Stage 1 was completed in all 117 patients. Stage 2 was completed in 65 (55.6%) of 117 patients. Thirty-day mortality rate for the first stage was 5.1% (6 of 117). Mortality rate during the interval between operations was 3.6% (4 of 111), of which 75% (3 of 4) were the result of aneurysm rupture. Thirty-day mortality rate for the second stage was 6.2% (4 of 65). A total of 43 patients did not return for second-stage repair. Among these patients, within an average period of 3.4 years (range, 1.5 months to 4.9 years), 13 of 43 (30.2%) died, 4 of 13 (30.8%) as the result of rupture. Two of 117 (1.7%) first-stage patients had postoperative stroke. No spinal cord dysfunction occurred in second-stage patients.

Conclusions: Extensive aortic aneurysms can be repaired with acceptable morbidity and mortality rates through the use of the elephant trunk technique. Death was most commonly the result of rupture, both in interval patients awaiting scheduled second-stage repair and in patients who did not return. After the first stage, prompt treatment of the remaining segment is crucial to the success of staged repair.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aorta, Abdominal / pathology
  • Aorta, Abdominal / surgery
  • Aorta, Thoracic / pathology
  • Aorta, Thoracic / surgery
  • Aortic Aneurysm / epidemiology
  • Aortic Aneurysm / mortality
  • Aortic Aneurysm / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / methods*