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J Vasc Surg. 2002 Sep;36(3):589-97.

In vivo analysis of mechanical wall stress and abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture risk.

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  • 1Section of Vascular Surgery, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, lebanon, NH 03750, USA.



The purpose of this study was to calculate abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) wall stresses in vivo for ruptured, symptomatic, and electively repaired AAAs with three-dimensional computer modeling techniques, computed tomographic scan data, and blood pressure and to compare wall stress with current clinical indices related to rupture risk.


CT scans were analyzed for 48 patients with AAAs: 18 AAAs that ruptured (n = 10) or were urgently repaired for symptoms (n = 8) and 30 AAAs large enough to merit elective repair within 12 weeks of the CT scan. Three-dimensional computer models of AAAs were reconstructed from CT scan data. The stress distribution on the AAA as a result of geometry and blood pressure was computationally determined with finite element analysis with a hyperelastic nonlinear model that depicted the mechanical behavior of the AAA wall.


Peak wall stress (maximal stress on the AAA surface) was significantly different between groups (ruptured, 47.7 +/- 6 N/cm(2); emergent symptomatic, 47.5 +/- 4 N/cm(2); elective repair, 36.9 +/- 2 N/cm(2); P =.03), with no significant difference in blood pressure (P =.2) or AAA diameter (P =.1). Because of trends toward differences in diameter, comparison was made only with diameter-matched subjects. Even with identical mean diameters, ruptured/symptomatic AAAs had a significantly higher peak wall stress (46.8 +/- 4.5 N/cm(2) versus 38.1 +/- 1.3 N/cm(2); P =.05). Maximal wall stress predicted risk of rupture better than the LaPlace equation (20.7 +/- 5.7 N/cm(2) versus 18.8 +/- 2.9 N/cm(2); P =.2) or other proposed indices of rupture risk. The smallest ruptured AAA was 4.8 cm, but this aneurysm had a stress equivalent to the average electively repaired 6.3-cm AAA.


Peak wall stresses calculated in vivo for AAAs near the time of rupture were significantly higher than peak stresses for electively repaired AAAs, even when matched for maximal diameter. Calculation of wall stress with computer modeling of three-dimensional AAA geometry appears to assess rupture risk more accurately than AAA diameter or other previously proposed clinical indices. Stress analysis is practical and feasible and may become an important clinical tool for evaluation of AAA rupture risk.

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