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Circulation. 1992 Jan;85(1):205-11.

Are aortic aneurysms caused by atherosclerosis?

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Honolulu Heart Program, HI 96817.



The emerging controversy concerning the causal role of atherosclerosis in the development of aortic aneurysms was examined using the accumulated clinical and autopsy data obtained during a 20-year follow-up of a cohort of more than 8,000 men of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii.


Analyses of 174 clinical incident events indicated that there were two types of aneurysmal disease, 151 aortic aneurysms and 23 aortic dissections. The baseline risk factors that predicted the clinical aortic aneurysms were the same factors that predicted aortic atherosclerosis in the same cohort, namely, high blood pressure, high serum cholesterol, and cigarette smoking. These same risk factors were also significantly associated with the occurrence of 27 aortic aneurysms among 293 autopsied men. The less common aortic dissections had an age-specific incidence pattern indicative of an innate susceptibility precipitated by an exposure to another factor. This pattern was consistent with the findings that the incidence of aortic dissections was predicted mainly by baseline high blood pressure.


From the perspective of prevention, it appears that the risk factors for aortic atherosclerosis and probably atherosclerosis itself are necessary elements in the causal pathway for the great majority of aortic aneurysms in this cohort.

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