Objective: The aim was to investigate whether changes in elastin distribution in the thoracic aorta are associated with occurrence of dissecting aneurysms.
Methods: Ten thoracic aortas were obtained at necropsy from dissections (mean patient age 74.3 years, SD 7.3) and from 10 age matched controls (mean age 73.1 years, SD 6.9). Full wall thickness samples (1 cm diameter) were taken at 12 sites between heart and diaphragm from aortas of dissections and controls. Elastin content (total elastin per sample), concentration (mg.mg-1 tissue dry weight), degree of cross linking, and amino acid composition were determined.
Results: Comparison of areas of dissected aortas involved in dissection with corresponding areas of controls showed significant increases in content of elastin (p < 0.05), content and concentration of proteins other than elastin and collagen (p < 0.01), and a decrease in elastin concentration (p < 0.01). Comparison of areas remote from dissection with corresponding areas in controls showed no significant differences except for decreased elastin concentration (p < 0.05). There were no differences in elastin cross linking. Elastin from dissected aortas had a higher content of aspartate, threonine, serine, glutamate, and lysine and a lower content of glycine, alanine, and valine than elastin from controls (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: Biochemical changes in dissections are localised to the dissected area, with increased deposition of elastin, collagen, and other proteins. The altered matrix composition is likely to change the mechanical properties, possibly increasing the tendency to rupture.