Background and aims of the study: Prompted by anecdotal evidence and observations by surgeons, an investigation was undertaken into the potential differences in implanted aortic valve prosthesis sizes, during aortic valve replacement (AVR) procedures, between northern and southern European countries.
Methods: A multi-institutional, non-randomized, retrospective analysis was conducted among 2,932 patients who underwent AVR surgery at seven tertiary cardiac surgery centers throughout Europe. Demographic and perioperative variables including valve size and type, body surface area (BSA) and early mortality were collected. Group analysis by patient geographic distribution and by annular diameter of the prosthesis utilized was conducted. Patients with a manufacturer's labeled prosthesis size > or = 21 mm were assigned to the 'large' aortic size subset, while those with a prosthesis size < 21 mm were assigned to the 'small' aortic size subset. Effective orifice area indices were calculated for all patients to assess the geographic distribution of patient-prosthesis mismatch. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses adjusting for possible confounding variables were performed.
Results: Prostheses with diameter < 21 mm were implanted at almost twice the rate in southern Europe compared to the north (56.4% versus 26.7%, p < 0.01). The mean valve size was also smaller in southern compared to northern European patients (21.6 +/- 2.1 mm versus 23.4 +/- 2.2 mm, p < 0.01). There were no regional differences in the distribution of either gender or BSA. In the multivariable model, south European patients were seven times more likely to receive a smaller-sized aortic valve (OR = 6.5, 95% CI = 4.82-8.83, p < 0.01), and thus the odds of developing patient-prosthesis mismatch were increased two-fold in southern European patients (OR = 1.9, 95% CI = 1.25-2.80, p = 0.02). However, neither geographic distribution nor valve size were significantly associated with operative mortality.
Conclusion: The study results demonstrated differences in implanted aortic valve size, between the participating northern and southern European countries. Imbalances in the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease, health resource availability and variations in surgical practice throughout Europe might be possible etiological causes.