From the Journals

Lower-risk approach for aortic arch repair


Key clinical point: Aortic arch reconstruction through a median sternotomy on bypass in newborns and infants had lower rates for recurrent obstruction than did a thoracotomy approach.

Major finding: Of 11 patients who required reintervention, one had a median sternotomy and 10 had a lateral thoracotomy.

Data source: Retrospective review of 183 consecutive newborns and infants with coarctation and hypoplastic aortic arch from 1996 to 2013.

Disclosures: Dr. Tulzer and coauthors had no financial relationships to disclose.

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Median sternotomy may reduce risk

While the outcomes that Dr. Tulzer and colleagues reported are “remarkable,” the findings raise a question if mortality and risk of interventions are the sole determinants in selecting a surgical strategy, Petros V. Anagnostopoulos, MD, said in his invited commentary (J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2016;152:1475-6). “The mortality should be low irrespective of approach,” Dr. Anagnostopoulos said.

He said that even if the surgeon pursues repair for coarctation and hypoplastic aortic arch through a thoracotomy instead of the median sternotomy the Austrian authors advocate and coarctation should recur, most of these cases can be treated with catheterization at low risk. “Will such a suboptimal outcome prove to be superior to that of a patient who has perfect anatomic repair but potentially faces adverse neurodevelopmental consequences of a neonatal cardiopulmonary bypass run?” he asked.

But the long-term outcomes are “poorly defined” as clinical investigators continue to “push the limits” to avoid deep hypothermia by using perfusion modifications to perform arch reconstruction, said Dr. Anagnostopoulos of the division of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, American Family Children’s Hospital, University of Wisconsin, Madison. “It may be time to start taking into account not only survival and accuracy of repair, but also long-term sequelae of our therapies,” he concluded.

Dr. Anagnostopoulos had no financial relationships to disclose.



In newborns with a borderline hypoplastic aortic arch, the type of operation and surgical approach can be critical in determining the risk of recurrent obstruction, but aortic arch reconstruction through a median sternotomy on bypass may carry a lower risk of recurrence than use of a thoracotomy.

In a study of 183 newborns and infants (median age of 15 days) who had surgery for coarctation and hypoplastic aortic arch over a 17-year period, researchers led by Andreas Tulzer, MD, of Children’s Heart Center, Linz, Austria, found that resection and extended end-to-end anastomosis (REEEA) as well as end-to-side anastomosis (ESA) yielded low mortality. The findings were published in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (2016;152:1506-13).

In the study, 72 patients had a median sternotomy – 71 with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) – and the remaining 111 had a lateral thoracotomy. Fifty-two patients (28.4%) had an additional ventricular septal defect closure. In the 71 patients who had median sternotomy with CPB, 41 had REEEA and 30 had ESA.

One patient who had median sternotomy with CPB had complications whereas 10 who had undergone primary repair with REEEA through a lateral thoracotomy had complications, for complications rates of 1.4% and 9%, respectively.

“Access through a median sternotomy with the use of CPB was superior to a lateral thoracotomy in terms of necessary reinterventions,” noted Dr. Tulzer and coauthors.

Of the 131 patients who had isolated repair of coarctation of the aorta with associated hypoplastic aortic arch, 116 had REEEA and 15 had ESA. There were no in-hospital deaths in this group and one patient needed an early reintervention. One patient had a severe neurologic complication.

On long-term follow-up of 139 patients at a median duration of 6.3 years, no late deaths were reported. “The calculated freedom from mortality (early and late) at 10 years for the entire group was 99.27%,” the researchers said. “In none of the patients of the follow-up population did we notice any signs of permanent left laryngeal nerve injury, bronchial compression, or left pulmonary artery stenosis.”

Lateral thoracotomy as access was a significant risk factor for recurrent obstruction at P = .03.

In the study, an experienced pediatric cardiologist and a pediatric cardiac surgeon determined which of three procedures to use – ESA on bypass, REEEA with a median sternotomy on CPB, or REEEA with a lateral thoracotomy without CPB – based on the size and anatomy of the proximal transverse aortic arch. In the early study period, cut-off values were proximal transverse arch diameters of 4 mm or less in newborns and young infants, but in the later study period the cut-off was z scores of –4.5 or less.

Adverse outcomes were minimal. There was one death within 30 days of surgery in the overall population (0.54%). The one severe complication consisted of paraplegia and cerebral hypoxemia after REEEA. At 10 years, 99.27% of all patients survived and 90.12% were free from intervention.

Either approach with REEEA and ESA is safe and effective, Dr. Tulzer and colleagues said, but they did determine a suitable population for the median sternotomy using CPB. “In patients with proximal transverse aortic arch, z scores of less than –4.59, arch repair should be performed through a median sternotomy using CPB, rather than through a lateral thoracotomy to reduce the risk for recurrent arch obstructions,” the researchers concluded.

Dr. Tulzer and coauthors had no financial relationships to disclose.

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