Abdominal aortic aneurysms and thoracic aortic atheromas

H R Reynolds, P A Tunick, S Kort, B P Rosenzweig, R S Freedberg, E S Katz, R M Applebaum, E L Portnay, M A Adelman, M J Attubato, I Kronzon
Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography 2001, 14 (11): 1127-31

BACKGROUND: Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is associated with atherosclerosis elsewhere. Thoracic aortic atheromas (ATHs) seen on transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) are an important cause of stroke and peripheral embolization. The purposes of this study were to determine whether an association exists between AAA and ATHs and to assess the importance of screening patients with ATHs for AAA.

METHODS: For the retrospective analysis, 109 patients with AAA and 109 matched controls were compared for the prevalence of ATHs on TEE and for historical variables. For the prospective analysis, screening for AAA on ultrasonography was performed in 364 patients at the time of TEE.

RESULTS: Results of the retrospective analysis showed that ATHs were present in 52% of patients with AAA and in 25% of controls (odds ratio [OR] = 3.3; P =.00003). There was a significantly higher prevalence of hypertension, myocardial infarction, heart failure, smoking, and carotid or peripheral arterial disease in patients with AAA. However, only ATHs were independently associated with AAA on multivariate analysis (P =.001). Results of the prospective analysis showed that screening at the time of TEE in 364 patients revealed AAA in 13.9% of those with ATHs and in 1.4% of those without ATHs (P <.0001; OR = 11.4).

CONCLUSIONS: (1) There is a strong, highly significant association between abdominal aneurysm and thoracic atheromas. (2) Patients with AAA may be at high risk for stroke because of the concomitance of thoracic aortic atheromas. (3) The high prevalence of abdominal aneurysm in patients with thoracic atheromas suggests that screening for abdominal aneurysm should be carried out in all patients with thoracic atheromas identified by TEE.

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