Evolving strategies for the treatment of aortoenteric fistulas

J Vasc Surg. 2006 Aug;44(2):250-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2006.04.031.


Background: Aortoenteric fistulas (AEFs) are a rare but often fatal cause of gastrointestinal bleeding. Operative repair of AEF has been historically associated with extremely high morbidity and mortality. We reviewed our experience of open surgical and endovascular treatment of AEF to compare outcomes over a contemporaneous time period.

Methods: Over a 9-year period between January 1997 and January 2006, 16 patients (11 men and 5 women) were diagnosed with and treated for AEFs. Seven patients underwent open surgical repair, and nine, with anatomically suitable lesions, underwent endovascular repair. The outcome after treatment of these patients was investigated for survival, perioperative complications, length of hospital stay, and long-term disposition.

Results: Three primary and 13 secondary AEFs were treated. The mean time from the initial aortic operation until AEF diagnosis was 5.9 years (range, 0.7-12.2 years) for patients with secondary AEFs. The overall 30-day mortality rate was 18.8%. One intraoperative death and one in-hospital death secondary to multisystem organ failure occurred in patients undergoing open repair. One in-hospital death related to persistent sepsis occurred in the endovascular group. The overall perioperative complication rate was 50.0%. Complications in the open group included sepsis, renal failure, bowel obstruction, and pancreatitis. Complications in the endovascular group were related to persistent sepsis. The mean in-hospital length of stay was significantly longer for patients undergoing open repair compared with endovascular repair (44.0 vs 19.4 days; P = .04). Four (80%) of five patients who were discharged from the hospital in the open group were placed in skilled nursing facilities, and seven (87.5%) of eight patients discharged in the endovascular group returned home. The median overall survival after hospital discharge was 23.1 months. There were no late aneurysm-related deaths or late deaths related to septic complications.

Conclusions: Patients with AEFs have limited overall survival. Endovascular therapy offers an alternative to open surgical repair, seems to be associated with decreased perioperative morbidity and mortality and a shorter in-hospital stay, and allows for acceptable survival given the presence of coexisting medical comorbidities. Furthermore, endovascular repair provides a therapeutic option to control bleeding and allow for continued intervention in a stabilized setting.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angioplasty / trends*
  • Aortic Diseases / mortality
  • Aortic Diseases / surgery*
  • Aortic Diseases / therapy
  • Endoscopy, Gastrointestinal
  • Esophageal Fistula / mortality
  • Esophageal Fistula / surgery*
  • Esophageal Fistula / therapy
  • Female
  • Gastric Fistula / mortality
  • Gastric Fistula / surgery*
  • Gastric Fistula / therapy
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Fistula / mortality
  • Intestinal Fistula / surgery*
  • Intestinal Fistula / therapy
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / trends*