Introduction: Extracranial carotid artery aneurysms (ECAA) are rare but may be accompanied with significant morbidity. Previous studies mostly focused on diagnostic imaging and treatment. In contrast, the pathophysiological mechanisms and natural course of ECAA are largely unknown. Understanding the pathophysiological background may add to prediction of risk for adverse outcome and need for surgical exclusion. The aim of this study was to investigate the histopathological characteristics of ECAA in patients who underwent complete surgical ECAA resection.
Material and methods: From March 2004 till June 2013, 13 patients were treated with open ECAA repair. During surgery the aneurysm sac was resected and processed for standardized histological analysis. Sections were stained with routine hematoxylin and eosin and special stains to detect elastin, collagen, different types of inflammatory cells, vascular smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells.
Results: Histopathological characterization revealed two distinct categories: dissection (abrupt interruption of the media; n = 3) and degeneration (general loss of elastin fibers in the media; n = 10). In the degenerative samples the elastin fibers in the media were fragmented and were partly absent. Inflammatory cells were observed in the vessel wall of the aneurysms.
Conclusion: Histological analysis in this small sample size revealed dissection and degeneration as the two distinct underlying mechanisms in ECAA formation.