Penetrating atherosclerotic ulcer of the descending thoracic aorta and arch

Kwang Ree Cho, Anthony W. Stanson, D. Donald Potter, Kenneth J. Cherry, Hartzell V. Schaff, Thoralf M. Sundt, John A. Elefteriades, Irving L. Kron, Lars G. Svensson, Robert Dion, Tirone E. David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


Objective: The clinical behavior of penetrating atherosclerotic ulcers of the aorta is controversial. We reviewed our experience with this entity over a 25-year interval. Methods: Cases were identified using the Department of Radiology database searching for the diagnoses of aortic dissection, intramural hematoma, or penetrating ulcer between 1977 and 2002. Available imaging studies were reviewed by a vascular radiologist to confirm the diagnosis of penetrating ulcer and sedal perform serial measurements. Results: One hundred five patients with penetrating atherosclerotic ulcers of the descending thoracic aorta or arch with (n = 85) or without (n = 20) associated intramural hematoma were confirmed. Two patients with ulcers in the ascending aorta were excluded. There were 73 men and 32 women with a mean age of 72 ± 9 years. Comorbidities included hypertension in 97 (92%), tobacco use in 81 (77%), and coronary artery disease in 48 (46%). Of nonoperated patients with follow-up studies, the mean thickness of the intramural hematoma decreased at 1 month in 89% and completely resolved at 1 year in 85%. There were 3 deaths (4%) within 30 days among 76 patients treated medically and 6 deaths (21%) among 29 patients treated surgically (P < .05). Failure of medical therapy defined as surgery or death was predicted by rupture at presentation (odds ratio = 20.6) and era of treatment (before 1990, odds ratio 9.9) but not aortic diameter, ulcer size, or extent of hematoma. Conclusion: Although careful follow-up is necessary, many penetrating atherosclerotic ulcers of the thoracic aorta can be managed nonoperatively in the acute setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1393-1401
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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