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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Variation in the elective management of small abdominal aortic aneurysms and physician practice patterns

Frank M Davis, Erin Jerzal, Jeremy Albright, Andris Kazmers, Ash Monsour, Paul Bove, Peter K Henke
Journal of Vascular Surgery 2019 March 2
30837184

OBJECTIVE: Recent vascular societal guidelines have recommended an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) size threshold for elective intervention; however, limited data have documented how well these AAA diameter benchmarks are being met. The objective of this study was to analyze variation in management of AAAs based on diameter and to determine the physician's rationale for intervention on small AAAs in relation to recommended treatment guidelines.

METHODS: A retrospective review of a statewide vascular surgery registry of all elective endovascular or open surgical AAA repairs from January 2012 to January 2016 was performed. Patients were dichotomized on the basis of aortic diameter at time of intervention into either guideline size AAAs or small AAAs, which were defined as <5.5 cm in men, <5.0 cm in women, or with growth <1.0 cm/y. An internal review was conducted of all small AAAs to determine the physician's rationale for intervention. The primary outcomes were variation in adherence to recommended treatment guidelines and the physician's rationale for treatment of small AAAs. Risk-adjusted major complication and mortality rates were calculated at 30 days and 1 year using a propensity score matching analysis.

RESULTS: Among the 3932 patients who underwent an elective AAA repair, 485 (12.3%) were repaired at diameters smaller than recommended by guidelines. The median AAA size in the small AAA cohort was 5.1 cm (interquartile range, 4.7-5.3 cm) vs 5.6 cm (interquartile range, 5.2-6.1 cm) in the guideline-based group. Percentage of small AAA repairs varied widely between hospitals from 1.4% to 44.4%. The physician's rationale for the majority of early interventions included the patient's anxiety (12.0%), combined aortoiliac occlusive disease (14.8%), aneurysm anatomy (28.2%), and does not adhere to guidelines (30%). The small AAA cohort had no significant difference in the 30-day or 1-year risk-adjusted mortality in comparison to guideline size AAAs.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite well-established aortic diameter threshold guidelines, marked variation exists both at the hospital level and in terms of the physician's rationale for the management of elective AAA repairs. These findings demonstrate the challenge of providing uniform care for patients with AAAs despite established guidelines.

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