To conduct an assessment on endovascular repair of descending thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA).
Aneurysm is the most common condition of the thoracic aorta requiring surgery. Aortic aneurysm is defined as a localized dilatation of the aorta. Most aneurysms of the thoracic aorta are asymptomatic and incidentally discovered. However, TAA tends to enlarge progressively and compress surrounding structures causing symptoms such as chest or back pain, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), dyspnea (shortness of breath), cough, stridor (a harsh, high-pitched breath sound), and hoarseness. Significant aortic regurgitation causes symptoms of congestive heart failure. Embolization of the thrombus to the distal arterial circulation may occur and cause related symptoms. The aneurysm may eventually rupture and create a life-threatening condition.
The overall incidence rate of TAA is about 10 per 100,000 person-years. The descending aorta is involved in about 30% to 40% of these cases.
The prognosis of large untreated TAAs is poor, with a 3-year survival rate as low as 25%. Intervention is strongly recommended for any symptomatic TAA or any TAA that exceeds twice the diameter of a normal aorta or is 6 cm or larger. Open surgical treatment of TAA involves left thoracotomy and aortic graft replacement. Surgical treatment has been found to improve survival when compared with medical therapy. However, despite dramatic advances in surgical techniques for performing such complex operations, operative mortality from centres of excellence are between 8% and 20% for elective cases, and up to 50% in patients requiring emergency operations. In addition, survivors of open surgical repair of TAAs may suffer from severe complications. Postoperative or postprocedural complications of descending TAA repair include paraplegia, myocardial infarction, stroke, respiratory failure, renal failure, and intestinal ischemia.
Endovascular aortic aneurysm repair (EVAR) using a stent graft, a procedure called endovascular stent-graft (ESG) placement, is a new alternative to the traditional surgical approach. It is less invasive, and initial results from several studies suggest that it may reduce mortality and morbidity associated with the repair of descending TAAs.
The goal in endovascular repair is to exclude the aneurysm from the systemic circulation and prevent it from rupturing, which is life-threatening. The endovascular placement of a stent graft eliminates the systemic pressure acting on the weakened wall of the aneurysm that may lead to the rupture. However, ESG placement has some specific complications, including endovascular leak (endoleak), graft migration, stent fracture, and mechanical damage to the access artery and aortic wall.
The Talent stent graft (manufactured by Medtronic Inc., Minneapolis, MN) is licensed in Canada for the treatment of patients with TAA (Class 4; licence 36552). The design of this device has evolved since its clinical introduction. The current version has a more flexible delivery catheter than did the original system. The prosthesis is composed of nitinol stents between thin layers of polyester graft material. Each stent is secured with oversewn sutures to prevent migration.
To compare the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of ESG placement in the treatment of TAAs with a conventional surgical approach
To summarize the safety profile and effectiveness of ESG placement in the treatment of descending TAAs
Measures of Effectiveness
Mortality rates (30-day and longer term)
Technical success rate of introducing a stent graft and exclusion of the aneurysm sac from systemic circulation
Rate of reintervention (through surgical or endovascular approach)
Measures of Safety
Complications were categorized into 2 classes:
Those specific to the ESG procedure, including rates of aneurysm rupture, endoleak, graft migration, stent fracture, and kinking; and
Those due to the intervention, either surgical or endovascular. These include paraplegia, stroke, cardiovascular events, respiratory failure, real insufficiency, and intestinal ischemia.
Studies comparing the clinical outcomes of ESG treatment with surgical approaches
Studies reporting on the safety and effectiveness of the ESG procedure for the treatment of descending TAAs
Studies investigating the clinical effectiveness of ESG placement for other conditions such as aortic dissection, aortic ulcer, and traumatic injuries of the thoracic aorta
Studies investigating the aneurysms of the ascending and the arch of the aorta
Studies using custom-made grafts
The Medical Advisory Secretariat searched The International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews for health technology assessments. It also searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Medline In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, and Cochrane CENTRAL from January 1, 2000 to July 11, 2005 for studies on ESG procedures. The search was limited to English-language articles and human studies.
One health technology assessment from the United Kingdom was identified. This systematic review included all pathologies of the thoracic aorta; therefore, it did not match the inclusion criteria. The search yielded 435 citations; of these, 9 studies met inclusion criteria.
Summary of Findings
The results of a comparative study found that in-hospital mortality was not significantly different between ESG placement and surgery patients (2 [4.8%] for ESG vs. 6 [11.3%] for surgery).
Pooled data from case series with a mean follow-up ranging from 12 to 38 months showed a 30-day mortality and late mortality rate of 3.9% and 5.5%, respectively. These rates are lower than are those reported in the literature for surgical repair of TAA.
Case series showed that the most common cause of early death in patients undergoing endovascular repair is aortic rupture, and the most common causes of late death are cardiac events and aortoesophageal or aortobronchial fistula.
Technical Success Rate
Technical success rates reported by case series are 55% to 100% (100% and 94.4% in 2 studies with all elective cases, 89% in a study with 5% emergent cases, and 55% in a study with 42% emergent cases).
In the comparative study, 3 (7.1%) patients in the ESG group and 14 (26.5%) patients in the surgery group required surgical reintervention. In the ESG group, the reasons for surgical intervention were postoperative bleeding at the access site, paraplegia, and type 1 endoleak. In the surgical group, the reasons for surgery were duodenal perforation, persistent thoracic duct leakage, false aneurysm, and 11 cases of postoperative bleeding.
Pooled data from case series show that 9 (2.6%) patients required surgical intervention. The reasons for surgical intervention were endoleak (3 cases), aneurysm enlargement and suspected infection (1 case), aortic dissection (1 case), pseudoaneurysm of common femoral artery (1 case), evacuation of hematoma (1 case), graft migration (1 case), and injury to the access site (1 case).
In the comparative study, 3 (7.1%) patients required endovascular revision due to persistent endoleak.
Pooled data from case series show that 19 (5.3%) patients required endovascular revision due to persistent endoleak.
Two case series reported graft migration. In one study, 3 proximal and 4 component migrations were noted at 2-year follow-up (total of 5%). Another study reported 1 (3.7%) case of graft migration. Overall, the incidence of graft migration was 2.6%.
In the comparative study, aortic rupture due to bare stent occurred in 1 case (2%). The pooled incidence of aortic rupture or dissection reported by case series was 1.4%.
In the comparative study, there were no statistically significant differences between the ESG and surgery groups in postprocedural complications, except for pneumonia. The rate of pneumonia was 9% for those who received an ESG and 28% for those who had surgery (P = .02). There were no cases of paraplegia in either group. The rate of other complications for ESG and surgery including stroke, cardiac, respiratory, and intestinal ischemia were all 5.1% for ESG placement and 10% for surgery. The rate for mild renal failure was 16% in the ESG group and 30% in the surgery group. The rate for severe renal failure was 11% for ESG placement and 10% for surgery.
Pooled data from case series show the following postprocedural complication rates in the ESG placement group: paraplegia (2.2%), stroke (3.9%), cardiac (2.9%), respiratory (8.7%), renal failure (2.8%), and intestinal ischemia (1%).
The results of the comparative study show statistically significant differences between the ESG and surgery group for mean operative time (ESG, 2.7 hours; surgery, 5 hours), mean duration of intensive care unit stay (ESG, 11 days; surgery, 14 days), and mean length of hospital stay (ESG, 10 days; surgery, 30 days).
The mean duration of intensive care unit stay and hospital stay derived from case series is 1.6 and 7.8 days, respectively.
Ontario-Based Economic Analysis
In Ontario, the annual treatment figures for fiscal year 2004 include 17 cases of descending TAA repair procedures (source: Provincial Health Planning Database). Fourteen of these have been identified as “not ruptured” with a mean hospital length of stay of 9.23 days, and 3 cases have been identified as “ruptured,” with a mean hospital length of stay of 28 days. However, because one Canadian Classification of Health Interventions code was used for both procedures, it is not possible to determine how many were repaired with an EVAR procedure or with an open surgical procedure.
The current fiscal year forecast of in-hospital direct treatment costs for all in-province procedures of repair of descending TAAs is about $560,000 (Cdn). The forecast in-hospital total cost per year for in-province procedures is about $720,000 (Cdn). These costs include the device cost when the procedure is EVAR (source: Ontario Case Costing Initiative).
Professional (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) Costs
Professional costs per treated patient were calculated and include 2 preoperative thoracic surgery or EVAR consultations.
The professional costs of an EVAR include the fees paid to the surgeons, anesthetist, and surgical assistant (source: fee service codes). The procedure was calculated to take about 150 minutes.
The professional costs of an open surgical repair include the fees of the surgeon, anesthetist, and surgical assistant. Open surgical repair was estimated to take about 300 minutes.
Services provided by professionals in intensive care units were also taken into consideration, as were the costs of 2 postoperative consultations that the patients receive on average once they are discharged from the hospital. Therefore, total Ontario Health Insurance Plan costs per treated patient treated with EVAR are on average $2,956 (ruptured or not ruptured), as opposed to $5,824 for open surgical repair and $6,157 for open surgical repair when the aneurysm is ruptured.
Endovascular stent graft placement is a less invasive procedure for repair of TAA than is open surgical repair.
There is no high-quality evidence with long-term follow-up data to support the use of EVAR as the first choice of treatment for patients with TAA that are suitable candidates for surgical intervention.
However, short- and medium-term outcomes of ESG placement reported by several studies are satisfactory and comparable to surgical intervention; therefore, for patients at high risk of surgery, it is a practical option to consider. Short- and medium-term results show that the benefit of ESG placement over the surgical approach is a lower 30-day mortality and paraplegia rate; and shorter operative time, ICU stay, and hospital stay.