To compare early and mid-term outcomes after repair of extensive aneurysm of the thoracic aorta using the conventional elephant trunk or frozen elephant trunk (FET) procedures.
Fifty-seven patients with extensive thoracic aneurysmal disease were treated using elephant trunk (n = 36) or FET (n = 21) procedures. Patients with aortic dissection, descending thoracic aorta (DTA) diameter less than 40 mm, and thoracoabdominal aneurysms were excluded from the analysis, as were those who did not undergo antegrade selective cerebral perfusion during circulatory arrest. Short-term and mid-term outcomes were compared according to elephant trunk/FET surgical management.
Preoperative and intraoperative variables were similar in the two groups, except for a higher incidence of female sex, coronary artery disease and associated procedures in elephant trunk patients. Hospital mortality (elephant trunk: 13.9% versus FET: 4.8%; P = 0.2), permanent neurologic dysfunction (elephant trunk: 5.7% versus FET: 9.5%; P = 0.4) and paraplegia (elephant trunk: 2.9% versus FET: 4.8%; P = 0.6) rates were similar in the two groups. Follow-up was 100% complete. In the elephant trunk group, 68.4% of patients did not undergo a second-stage procedure during follow-up for a variety of reasons. Of these patients, the DTA diameter was greater than 51 mm in 72.2% and two (6.7%) died due to aortic rupture while awaiting stage-two intervention. Endovascular second-stage procedures were successfully performed in all FET patients with residual DTA aneurysmal disease (n = 3), whereas nine of 11 elephant trunk patients who returned for second-stage procedures required conventional surgical replacement through a lateral thoracotomy. Kaplan–Meier estimate of 4-year survival was 75.8 ± 7.6 and 72.8 ± 10.6 in elephant trunk and FET patients, respectively (log-rank P = 0.8).
In patients with extensive aneurysmal disease of thoracic aorta, elephant trunk and FET procedures seem to be associated with similar satisfactory early and mid-term outcomes. The FET approach leads to single-stage treatment of all aortic disease in most patients, and facilitates endovascular second-stage treatment in patients with residual DTA disease. The elephant trunk staged-approach appears to leave a considerable percentage of patients at risk for adverse aortic events.