The mechanical role of thrombus on the growth rate of an abdominal aortic aneurysm

J Vasc Surg. 2010 Jan;51(1):19-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2009.08.075. Epub 2009 Nov 27.


Objectives: In the decision for surgical repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), the maximum diameter is the main factor. Several studies have concluded that the diameter may not be reliable as rupture risk criterion for the individual patient and wall stress was found to have a higher sensitivity and specificity. The AAA wall stress may also be an influential factor in growth of the AAA. This study investigates the effect of intraluminal thrombus on the wall stress and growth rate of aneurysms, using both idealized and patient-specific AAA models in wall stress computations.

Methods: Idealized AAA models were created for wall stress analysis. Thrombus was modeled as an incompressible linear elastic material and was fixed to the wall. The reduction in wall stress for a range of thrombus volumes and shear moduli was computed. For 30 patient-specific AAA models with varying thrombus volumes, the wall stress was computed with and without thrombus. The diameter growth rate was compared for AAAs with a small and large thrombus volume. The results were compared between the idealized and patient-specific models.

Results: The thrombus caused a reduction in wall stress, which was stronger for larger thrombi and higher elastic moduli. Any AAAs with a large thrombus were found to have significant stronger growth in diameter than aneurysms with a small thrombus (P < .01). The stress reduction due to the thrombus showed the same trend for the idealized and patient-specific models, although the effect was overestimated by the idealized models and a considerable variation between patients was observed.

Conclusion: A larger thrombus in AAA was associated with a higher AAA growth rate, but also with a lower wall stress. Therefore, weakening of the AAA wall, under the influence of thrombus, may play a more imminent role in the process of AAA growth than the stress acting on the wall.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / complications*
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / physiopathology
  • Aortic Rupture / etiology*
  • Aortic Rupture / pathology
  • Aortography / methods
  • Blood Pressure
  • Disease Progression
  • Elasticity
  • Female
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Thrombosis / complications*
  • Thrombosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Thrombosis / physiopathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed