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Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2009 Nov;2(6):533-9. doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.109.848259. Epub 2009 Oct 27.

Evaluation of patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis who do not undergo aortic valve replacement: the potential role of subjectively overestimated operative risk.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-5853, USA.



Some patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis (AS) do not undergo aortic valve replacement (AVR) despite demonstrated symptomatic and survival advantages and despite unequivocal guideline recommendations for surgical evaluation.


In 3 large tertiary care institutions (university, Veterans Affairs, and private practice) in Washtenaw County, Mich, patients were identified with unrefuted echocardiography/Doppler evidence of severe AS during calendar year 2005. Medical records were retrospectively reviewed for symptoms, referral for AVR, calculated operative risk for AVR, and rationale as to why patients did not undergo valve replacement. Of 369 patients with severe AS, 191 (52%) did not undergo AVR. Of these, 126 (66%, 34% of total) had symptoms consistent with AS. The most common reasons cited for absent intervention were comorbidities with high operative risk (61 patients [48%]), patent refusal (24 patients [19%]), and symptoms unrelated to AS (24 patients [19%]). Operated patients had a lower Society of Thoracic Surgery-calculated perioperative mortality risk than unoperated patients (1.8% [interquartile range, 1.0 to 3.0%] versus 2.7% [interquartile range, 1.6 to 5.5%], P<0.001). However, 28 (24%) of 126 unoperated symptomatic patients had a calculated perioperative risk less than the median risk for patients who underwent AVR. Only 57 (30%) of 191 unoperated patients were evaluated by a cardiac surgeon. There were similar rates of intervention across practice settings, and similar rates of unoperated patients despite symptoms and low operative risk.


One third of patients with severe AS are symptomatic but do not undergo AVR, with similar findings in multiple practice environments. For most unoperated patients, objectively calculated operative risks did not appear prohibitive. Despite this, a minority of unoperated patients were referred for surgical consultation. Some patients with severe symptomatic AS may be inappropriately denied access to potentially life-saving therapy.

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