Background: Surgical repair of thoracoabdominal aneurysms may be associated with a significant risk of perioperative morbidity including spinal cord ischemia, which occurs at a rate of between 5% and 21%. Spinal cord ischemia after endovascular repair of thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAAs) has also been reported. This investigation reviews the occurrence of spinal cord ischemia after endovascular repair of descending TAAs at the Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Patients and methods: Between May 1997 and April 2001, 53 patients underwent endovascular exclusion of their TAA. Preprocedure computed tomography scanning and angiography were performed on all patients. All were performed in the operating room using C-arm fluoroscopy. Physical examinations and computed tomography scans were performed at discharge and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively and then annually thereafter. Spinal cord ischemia developed in three of the 53 patients (5.7%) postoperatively. In one patient, cord ischemia developed that manifested as early postoperative left leg weakness occurring after concomitant open infrarenal abdominal and endovascular TAA repair. The neurologic deficit resolved 12 hours after spinal drainage, steroid bolus, and the maintenance of hemodynamic stability. The remaining two patients developed delayed onset paralysis, one patient on the second postoperative day and the other patient 1 month postrepair. Both of these patients had previous abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, and both required long grafts to exclude an extensive area of their thoracic aortas. Irreversible cord ischemia and paralysis occurred in both of these patients.
Conclusions: Endovascular repair of TAA has shown a promising reduction in operative morbidity; however, the risk of spinal cord ischemia remains. Concomitant or previous abdominal aortic aneurysm repair and long segment thoracic aortic exclusion appear to be important risk factors. Spinal cord protective measures (ie, cerebrospinal fluid drainage, steroids, prevention of hypotension) should be used for patients with the aforementioned risk factors undergoing endovascular TAA repair.