Objective: Aortic complications determine the life expectancy of most patients with Marfan syndrome. To find out whether there is heterogenous aortic involvement among patients and, if there is, to characterize aortic patterns and response to long-term beta-blocker therapy, we investigated aortic elastic properties before and during beta-blocker treatment.
Methods: In 46 patients with Marfan syndrome (age, 17.4 +/- 11.1 years) and 46 healthy control subjects, ascending and descending aortic elastic parameters were determined noninvasively before and after 39 +/- 16 months of beta-blocker treatment with atenolol.
Results: Aortic diameters and distensibility distinguished Marfan patients and controls with a sensitivity of 85% and a specificity of 87%. Cluster analysis revealed 4 patterns of aortic phenotypic expression: (1) reduced ascending aortic elasticity (46% of patients), (2) diminished ascending and descending aortic elasticity (17%), (3) minimal alterations of ascending and descending aortic elasticity (20%), and (4) reduced descending aortic elasticity (17%). During follow-up, aortic elastic properties improved in 21 (70%) of 30 patients and deteriorated in 9 (30%) irrespective of beta-blocker dosage. Improvement was observed in 100% of patients (n = 7; age, 5.3 +/- 4.2 years) with end-diastolic aortic root diameters between 20 and 30 mm and in 61% of patients (14/23; age, 20.5 +/- 10.0 years) with root diameters between 30 and 52 mm.
Conclusions: Aortic elastic parameters distinguish between patients with Marfan syndrome and healthy controls and show the pattern of regional aortic involvement. Improvement or deterioration during follow-up can influence therapeutic decisions to prevent aortic dissection and rupture. Young age, small root diameter, and high distensibility are favorable prognostic factors.