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J Vasc Surg. 1998 Nov;28(5):884-8.

Rupture in small abdominal aortic aneurysms.

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Division of Vascular Surgery, Department of Surgery, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, USA.



The decision of whether to repair small abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), which are those that are less than 5 cm in diameter, remains controversial.


We describe 161 consecutive patients who were seen at a single urban hospital with ruptured AAAs (rAAAs) and in whom aneurysm size was measured with ultrasound scanning, or rarely computed tomography, en route to the operating room. Eleven patients (6.8%) had AAAs that measured less than 5.0 cm. This group was compared with 150 patients who had rAAAs that were more than 5 cm.


The mortality rates were similar in both of the groups 70% for small rAAAs versus 66% for large rAAAs. No significant differences were seen between the patients with small and large ruptured aneurysms with respect to the prevalence rates of hypertension (60% vs 50%) or of cardiac disease (20% vs 22%). However, the prevalence rate of obstructive lung disease was significantly different (64% vs 25%; P =.02) as was the rate of diabetes (28% vs 3%; P =.004). Five aneurysms were measured at exactly 5 cm. This suggests that approximately 10% of all aneurysms that rupture in this series do so at 5 cm or less.


In view of the safety of elective repair as compared with the prohibitive risk associated with aneurysm rupture, patients who are at good risk with small AAA (between 4 and 5 cm) should be considered for elective aneurysm resection. For unclear reasons, obstructive lung disease and diabetes are associated with a significantly greater risk for rupture of small AAA. Patients with these risk factors should be given special consideration.

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