CHICAGO – Adoption of an organized, systematic approach to ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm has been inconsistent.
In a recent survey of vascular physicians in the western United States, 60% who accept ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (rAAA) transfers do not have a formal protocol for treatment and 70% do not use a transfer protocol or clinical guidelines (J Vasc Surg. 2015 Aug;62:326-30).
Guidelines for the management and transfer of patients with rAAA have been developed in the United Kingdom, but no such guidelines currently exist in the United States.
To address this disparity, the Western Vascular Society used the survey results, existing European guidelines, and a literature review to develop a set of 15 best practice steps for rAAA transfer. The “guidelines” were endorsed by the society members in September 2015 and are to be published early in 2016, Dr. Matthew Mell of Stanford (Calif.) University Medical Center said at a symposium on vascular surgery sponsored by Northwestern University. The guidelines identify four key components to a successful transfer: an organized inter-facility system of care including rapid triage and transport, defined clinical criteria for transfer, standard resuscitation protocols for the transport, and appropriate resources at the receiving hospital.
During transport, aim for a systolic blood pressure of 70 mm Hg to 90 mm Hg, establish peripheral intravenous access, and avoid aggressive fluid resuscitation, the guidelines advise. Blood products may delay the transfer.
Receiving hospitals should provide a simple and reliable method of referral and have formal protocols in place for the treatment of transferred patients.
Centers that receive patients should have endovascular aortic repair capabilities for ruptured aneurysms, including the ability to perform EVAR under local anesthesia, as well as appropriate facilities and expertise, Dr. Mell said. This advice is based mainly on outcomes observed in the IMPROVE trial (Br J Surg. 2014;101;216-24).
Successful programs tend to repair more than 20-25 ruptures per year, have on-site EVAR inventory, and, for the most part, have vascular surgeons able to perform dual open and endovascular repair. Hospital resources in these successful programs have a single phone number for transfer requests, electronic image transfer, immediately available blood products, hospital policy to accept all requests regardless of bed capacity, a contingency plan to create bed capacity after repair, and real-time management between the transfer center, bed control, and clinicians.
“This is really important because a lot of tertiary centers struggle with bed capacity if bottlenecked and a significant number [about one-third] of transfer requests are declined because of lack of capacity or dedicated room,” Dr. Mell said.
In a more recent study, nearly 20% of 4,439 patients who presented with rAAA in New York, California, and Florida were transferred for definitive care. Transfer rates rose yearly during the study period from 14% in 2005 to 22% in 2010 (J Vasc Surg. 2014;60:553-7).
“Transfer is increasingly utilized as a means for definitive care,” Dr. Mell said.
However, one in six of those transferred died without receiving treatment.
In adjusted analyses, inter-facility transfer was associated with significantly lower mortality when only patients receiving treatment were analyzed (adjusted odds ratio, 0.81; P = .02), but was actually associated with higher mortality when patients who died without treatment were also included (aOR, 1.30; P = .01).
“Outcomes after transfer can be improved by better patient selection and more efficient systems of care,” Dr. Mell concluded. “Guidelines may help; it’s too soon to know, but successful transfer programs require forethought, resources, and alignment of all stakeholders.”
Dr. Mell reported having no conflicts of interest.