Fate of patients with spinal cord ischemia complicating thoracic endovascular aortic repair

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Abstract

Objective:

Spinal cord ischemia (SCI) is a potentially devastating complication of thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR) that can result in varying degrees of short-term and permanent disability. This study was undertaken to describe the clinical outcomes, long-term functional impact, and influence on survival of SCI after TEVAR.

Methods:

A retrospective review of all TEVAR patients at the University of Florida from 2000 to 2011 was performed to identify individuals experiencing SCI, defined by any new lower extremity neurologic deficit not attributable to another cause. SCI was dichotomized into immediate or delayed onset, with immediate onset defined as SCI noted upon awakening from anesthesia, and delayed characterized as a period of normal function, followed by development of neurologic injury. Ambulatory status was determined using database query, record review, and phone interviews with patients and/or family. Mortality was estimated using life-table analysis.

Results:

A total of 607 TEVARs were performed for various indications, with 57 patients (9.4%) noted to have postoperative SCI (4.3% permanent). SCI patients were more likely to be older (63.9 ± 15.6 vs 70.5 ± 11.2 years; P = .002) and have a number of comorbidities, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and cerebrovascular disease (P < .0001). At some point in their care, a cerebrospinal fluid drain was placed in 54 patients (95%), with 54% placed postoperatively. In-hospital mortality was 8.8% for the entire cohort (SCI vs no SCI; P = .45). SCI developed immediately in 12 patients, delayed onset in 40, and indeterminate in five patients due to indiscriminate timing from postoperative sedation. Three patients (25%) with immediate SCI had measurable functional improvement (FI), whereas 28 (70%) of the delayed-onset patients experienced some degree of neurologic recovery (P = .04). Of the 34 patients with complete data available, 26 (76%) reported quantifiable FI, but only 13 (38%) experienced return to their preoperative baseline. Estimated mean (± standard error) survival for patients with and without SCI was 37.2 ± 4.5 and 71.6 ± 3.9 months (P < .0006), respectively. Patients with FI had a mean survival of 53.9 ± 5.9 months compared with 9.6 ± 3.6 months for those without improvement (P < .0001). Survival and return of neurologic function were not significantly different when patients with preoperative and postoperative cerebrospinal fluid drains were compared.

Conclusions:

The minority of patients experience complete return to baseline function after SCI with TEVAR, and outcomes in patients without early functional recovery are particularly dismal. Patients experiencing delayed SCI are more likely to have FI and may anticipate similar life-expectancy with neurologic recovery compared with patients without SCI. Timing of drain placement does not appear to have an impact on postdischarge FI or long-term mortality.

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