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Am Heart J. 1999 Oct;138(4 Pt 1):746-52.

Protruding aortic arch atheromas: risk of stroke during heart surgery with and without aortic arch endarterectomy.

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Department of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine, New York, 10016, USA.



Stroke occurs in 1% to 7% of heart surgery. Aortic arch atherosclerosis is a risk factor for intraoperative stroke, and endarterectomy has been proposed to prevent stroke during heart surgery in patients with arch atheromas.


Intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography was performed in 3404 patients undergoing heart surgery between 1990 and 1996. Use of transesophageal echocardiography was unselected and based on equipment availability. Aortic arch atheromas (>/=5 mm, or mobile) were seen in 268 (8%) patients. They were evaluated for intraoperative stroke (confirmed by a neurologist and cerebral infarction on computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging). Arch endarterectomy was performed in 43 patients as an adjunct to their cardiac procedure in an attempt to prevent intraoperative stroke. The intraoperative stroke rate in all 268 patients with atheromas was high (15.3%). On univariate analysis, age, previous stroke, and arch endarterectomy were significantly associated with intraoperative stroke. On multivariate analysis, age (odds ratio 3.9, P =.01) and arch endarterectomy (odds ratio 3.6, P =.001) were independently predictive of intraoperative stroke. Mortality rate in all 268 patients was high (14.9%). These patients with atheromas also had a long recovery room, intensive care unit, and total hospital length of stay (48 days).


Patients with protruding aortic arch atheromas are at high risk for intraoperative stroke, significant and multiple morbidity, prolonged hospital stay, and death resulting from heart surgery. Aortic arch endarterectomy is strongly associated with intraoperative stroke; its use should be carefully considered in light of these results.

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