Increasing angulation decreases measured aortic stent graft pullout forces

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Experimentally measured pullout forces for stent grafts (SGs) are used in clinical discussions and as reference values in bench studies and computer simulations. Previous values of these forces are available from studies in which the SG was pulled out in the straight caudal direction. However, clinical and numerical studies have suggested that displacement forces acting on SGs are directed more anteriorly. The objective of this study was to measure pullout forces as a function of angulation and to test the hypothesis that pullout forces decrease with increasing angulation.


Six different SGs (Bolton Treovance, Cook Zenith Flex, Cook Zenith LP, Medtronic Endurant, Medtronic Talent, and Vascutek Anaconda) were deployed in fresh bovine aortas, then pulled out by an electronic motor at 1 mm/s, while tension force was measured continuously with a digital load cell. The SG off-axis angulation was changed from 0 to 90 degrees in increments of 10 degrees. The test system was submerged in a custom-built temperature-controlled saline bath at 37°C. At least three tests were performed for each device at each angle (with the exception of the Cook Zenith Flex, which experienced plastic deformation of its barbs after a single test per device). Each aortic specimen was used only once and then discarded. Hand-sutured graft anastomoses were also tested at 0 degrees to provide a reference value.


A total of 374 pullout tests were performed for the SGs and anastomoses. Sixty-four tests were excluded because of failure of the aorta or apparatus before device pullout. The remaining 310 tests showed pullout forces that demonstrated a decrease in the average pullout force for all six devices from 0 to 90 degrees (Bolton Treovance from 39.3 N to 23.9 N; Cook Zenith Flex from 59.8 N to 48.9 N; Cook Zenith LP from 50.3 N to 41.8 N; Medtronic Endurant from 29.9 N to 25.8 N; Medtronic Talent from 6.0 N to 5.5 N; and Vascutek Anaconda from 37.0 N to 30.3 N). For reference, the mean pullout force for the hand-sutured anastomoses was 63 N.


This study reports for the first time the change in pullout force with angulation, showing a general pullout force decrease with increasing angle. With a larger number of samples than in previous studies, our results provide updated benchmark data that can be used for clinical discussions, computational and experimental studies, and future device design.

Clinical Relevance:

It is becoming clear that the displacement forces acting on stent grafts are not directed straight inferiorly but have a significant anteriorly directed component. However, all benchmark studies reporting experimental pullout forces for devices have been in a straight, axial direction. This study will characterize what effect nonaxial angulation has on pullout forces. This will allow more meaningful clinical discussion about “pullout forces” and allow more educated and informed predictions regarding the behavior of stent grafts. It will provide a reference for computer simulation and experimental studies, including those used to design next-generation devices.

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