Influence of Aortic Stiffness on Aortic-Root Growth Rate and Outcome in Patients With the Marfan Syndrome

Am J Cardiol. 2018 May 1;121(9):1094-1101. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2018.01.016. Epub 2018 Feb 13.


The Pediatric Heart Network randomized trial of atenolol versus losartan in the Marfan syndrome showed no treatment differences in the rates of aortic-root growth or clinical outcomes. In this report we present treatment effects on aortic stiffness and determine whether baseline aortic stiffness predicts aortic-root growth and clinical outcomes. Echocardiograms at 0, 6, 12, 24, and 36 months from 608 subjects (6 months to 25 years) who met original Ghent criteria and had a maximum aortic-root z-score (ARz) >3 were centrally reviewed. Stiffness index (SI) and elastic modulus (EM) were calculated for aortic root and ascending aorta. Data were analyzed using multivariable mixed effects modeling and Cox regression. Heart rate-corrected aortic-root SI over 3 years decreased with atenolol but did not change with losartan (-0.298 ± 0.139 vs 0.141 ± 0.139/year, p = 0.01). In the entire cohort, above-median aortic-root SI (>9.1) and EM (>618 mm Hg) predicted a smaller annual decrease in ARz (p ≤0.001). Upper-quartile aortic-root EM (>914 mm Hg) predicted the composite outcome of aortic-root surgery, dissection, or death (hazard ratio 2.17, 95% confidence interval 1.02 to 4.63, p = 0.04). Crude 3-year event rates were 10.4% versus 3.2% for higher versus lower EM groups. In conclusion, atenolol was associated with a decrease in aortic-root SI, whereas losartan was not. Higher baseline aortic-root SI and EM were associated with a smaller decrease in ARz and increased risk for clinical outcomes. These data suggest that noninvasive aortic stiffness measures may identify patients at higher risk of progressive aortic enlargement and adverse clinical outcomes, potentially allowing for closer monitoring and more aggressive therapy.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aorta / diagnostic imaging
  • Aorta / drug effects
  • Aortic Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Aortic Diseases / etiology
  • Atenolol / administration & dosage*
  • Cardiac Imaging Techniques / methods
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Linear Models
  • Losartan / administration & dosage*
  • Marfan Syndrome / complications
  • Marfan Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*
  • Marfan Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Assessment
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vascular Stiffness / drug effects*


  • Atenolol
  • Losartan