Low incidence of paraplegia after thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair with proactive spinal cord protective protocols

J Vasc Surg. 2013 Jun;57(6):1537-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2012.12.032. Epub 2013 Mar 13.


Objective: Paraparesis and paraplegia after thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair (TEVAR) is a greatly feared complication. Multiple case series report this risk up to 13% with no, or inconsistent, application of interventions to enhance and protect spinal cord perfusion. In this study, we report our single-institution experience of TEVAR, using the same proactive spinal cord ischemia protection protocol we use for open repair.

Methods: Endovascular thoracic aortic interventions were performed for both on-label (aneurysm) and off-label (trauma, other) indications. Aortic area covered was recorded as a fraction from the subclavian to celiac origins and reported as a percentage. If debranching was required, measurements were taken from the most distal arch vessel left intact. Intraoperative imaging and postoperative computed tomographic angiogram were used in calculating aortic percent coverage. Outcomes were recorded in a clinical database and analyzed retrospectively. The spinal cord ischemia protection included routine spinal drainage (spinal fluid pressure <10 mm Hg), endorphin receptor blockade (naloxone infusion), moderate intraoperative hypothermia (<35°C), hypotension avoidance (mean arterial pressure >90 mm Hg), and optimizing cardiac function.

Results: From 2005 to 2012, 94 consecutive TEVARs were studied. Indications were thoracic aneurysm (n = 48), plaque rupture with or without dissection (n = 23), trauma (n = 15), and other (n = 8). Forty-nine percent were acute, average age was 68.5 years, 60% (n = 56) were male, and the mean follow-up was 12 months. Mean length of aortic coverage was 161 mm, correlating to 59.4% aortic coverage. One patient had delayed paralysis (1.1%; observed/expected ratio, 0.12) and recovered enough to ambulate easily without assistance. Other complications included wound (7.5%), stroke (4.3%), myocardial infarct (4.3%), and renal failure (1.1%).

Conclusions: Proactive spinal cord protective protocols appear to reduce the incidence of spinal ischemia after TEVAR compared with historical series. This study would suggest that active, as opposed to reactive, approaches to spinal ischemia portend a better long-term outcome. Multimodal protection is essential, especially if long segment coverage is planned.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Thoracic / surgery*
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Endovascular Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Paraplegia / epidemiology*
  • Paraplegia / etiology
  • Paraplegia / prevention & control*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord