Background: Protruding aortic arch thrombus is associated clinically with life-threatening emboli. Definitive treatment for aortic arch thrombus removal has demanded complicated vascular surgical procedures, with high morbidity and mortality.
Methods and results: Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) enabled diagnosis of a protruding thrombus at the aortic arch in 5 patients, and a simultaneous lesion in the descending aorta in 1 patient. Four patients had visceral emboli, coinciding with peripheral emboli in 2 patients, and the fifth patient had peripheral and cerebral emboli. One patient had had ischemic stroke and femoral emboli a few months previously. Mean patient age was 51 years. None had clinical evidence of coronary or peripheral atherosclerotic occlusive disease. Risk factors included hypertension (n = 2), smoking (n = 4), and preexisting thrombophilia (n = 4). Five patients underwent TEE-guided aortic balloon thrombectomy from the arch with a 34-mm occluding balloon catheter. One patient also underwent balloon thrombectomy from the descending aorta with a 14F Foley catheter. Access into the aorta was obtained through the iliac artery (n = 4) during laparotomy because of visceral ischemia or through the transfemoral approach (n = 2). Previous procedures included superior mesenteric embolectomy (n = 3), segmental bowel resection (n = 1), splenectomy (n = 1), and peripheral arterial embolectomy n = 3). Real-time intraoperative TEE enabled visualization of the protruding thrombus and assisted with maneuvering of the balloon catheter. At completion peripheral thrombectomy thrombus material was retrieved in 4 patients. Postoperatively there were no clinically proved new procedure-related visceral emboli, and all patients received anticoagulant therapy thereafter. Follow-up TEE within 2 weeks and up to 7 years revealed no recurrent aortic arch thrombus.
Conclusions: TEE-guided aortic balloon thrombectomy used in 6 procedures was effectively completed without visceral or peripheral ischemic complications. It enabled removal of the life-threatening source of emboli from the proximal aorta, thereby averting the need of major aortic surgery.