Background: The preferred technique for spinal cord protection during surgical repair of descending thoracic aortic aneurysms (DTAAs) remains controversial. The purpose of this retrospective analysis was to determine if the use of left heart bypass (LHB) reduced the incidence of paraplegia in patients who underwent DTAA repair.
Methods: Over a 15-year period 387 consecutive patients underwent surgical repair of DTAAs using either the "clamp-and-sew" technique (341 patients, 88.1%) or distal aortic perfusion via a LHB circuit (46 patients, 11.9%). Data regarding patient characteristics, operative variables, and outcomes were retrieved from a prospectively maintained database. The impact of LHB on the frequency of paraplegia was determined using univariate and propensity score analyses.
Results: There were 17 operative deaths (4.4%) including 11 patients (2.8%) who died within 30 days. Paraplegia occurred in 10 patients (2.6%). On univariate analysis increasing age (p = 0.03), increasing aortic clamp time (p < 0.001), increasing red blood cell transfusion requirements (p = 0.01), and acute dissection (p = 0.03) were associated with increased incidence of paraplegia. Patients who received LHB had a similar incidence of paraplegia (2/46, 4%) compared with those treated without LHB (8/341, 2.3%; p = 0.3). Both matching and stratification propensity score analyses confirmed that LHB was not associated with reduced risk of paraplegia.
Conclusions: On retrospective analysis the use of LHB during DTAA repair did not reduce the incidence of spinal cord injury. The "clamp-and-sew" technique remains an appropriate approach to DTAA repair.