Patients with BTAI often present with significant associated injuries that should be considered when determining the timing of repair, which clouds the optimal management strategies of BTAI. Considering the risk of subsequent aortic rupture, the SVS guidelines recommend early repair . However, several current large-sample studies have demonstrated that delayed intervention is associated with lower mortality than early intervention [6, 7, 13]. Nevertheless, two of the three studies did not provide information about a spectrum of BTAI [6, 7], and another one did not classify patients by grade of aortic injuries . Therefore, these conclusions could not be well generalized to high-grade injuries. Traumatic PSAs are considered to be unstable lesions conventionally, and balancing the poor results of early repair with the risk of rupture remains challenging . Early repair is still the prevalent management for traumatic aortic PSAs. We report the encouraging results of delayed repair for PSAs at a high-level trauma center in Asia over the past 8 years, which shows that selected traumatic aortic PSAs could be delayed safely.
Guidelines from EAST indicated that the risk of paraplegia and death with delayed intervention was significantly lower when compared with early repair . Some authors argued that selection bias may be responsible for this discrepancy, more severe injuries occurred in the early group and thus have a higher overall mortality than the delay group, whereas some large-sample studies have demonstrated that the decreased overall mortality relationship with delay group was present regardless of the related injuries [6, 7]. The reason for this mortality benefit is unclear. One possible explanation is that more life-threatening injuries can be managed in a timely manner. Meanwhile, several studies found that the majority of in-hospital mortality in patients with BTAI was associated with coexisting injuries rather than aortic injuries [14,15,16]. These conclusions are consistent with our report. There were no aortic-related deaths in our series, which indicates that early repair of these lesions may not be mandatory. Another explanation is that delayed repair allows appropriate fluid resuscitation and stabilization for the patient. Appropriate fluid resuscitation increases spinal cord perfusion pressure (SCPP), which is thought to be correlated with a lower rate of paraplegia in the delayed group. In addition, patients with PSAs typically have associated injuries. Heparinization during early TEVAR poses a risk for worsening concurrent hemorrhagic injuries, while delayed repair allows the hemorrhagic injuries to be stabilized to reduce the risk of bleeding . Therefore, it is evident that deliberate, delayed repair could be a valid approach in selected BTAI patients.
Traumatic aortic PSAs are not inherently unstable. Owing to the better outcomes of delayed repair, the distinction of unstable PSAs requiring early repair versus low-risk lesions suitable for delayed repair could improve outcomes for PSAs patients. Harris et al. identified that a ratio of P/N > 1.4 and a mediastinal hematoma > 10 mm were effective predictors for early aortic rupture . Rabin et al. recommend emergency repair only for large PSAs (more than 50% circumference) with large left-sided hemothorax, pseudocoarctation, or mediastinal hematoma with mass effect, while the remaining PSAs could be safely observed before repair . Unfortunately, there were no sufficient data in our report to identify any effective factors that would indicate which PSAs do not require early repair. In our experience, PSAs that require early repair were infrequent. Among the 14 patients in our center, given the risk of early rupture in one lesion with irregular shape and large size (the P/N ratio of 1.79), early repair was performed only in this patient (Fig. 2). The remaining 13 lesions presented with a regular shape, which we considered to be an important characterization of the stable PSAs, although some lesions had a P/N ratio > 1.4 slightly (Additional file 1: Table S1), this could not change our opinion that these were stable lesions. Therefore, we performed delayed repair in these 13 patients. More risk parameters for early aortic rupture need to be identified to accurately select lesions appropriate for delayed repair.
In a study by Smeds et al., 16 PSAs patients received a watchful waiting strategy during a 10-year period (from 2004 to 2014). Among these 16 patients, 3 patients died of other injuries before repair, and 13 patients underwent delayed TEVAR successfully. No aortic-related deaths occurred in this series . Our practice validated the safety and efficacy of delayed repair strategies for selected PSAs. In our center, these patients initially received anti-impulse therapy with β-blockers and monitoring pulse and blood pressure. TEVAR was performed after these patients were sufficiently resuscitated and the associated injuries were stabilized. During a mean follow-up of 39 months, no aortic-related complications or deaths were found. These conclusions contribute to an increasing body of evidence that challenge BTAI management guidelines that support early repair of all PSAs.
Limitations of our study are related to the single-center, the small sample size and the retrospective nature. Selection bias undoubtedly exists in our study. Despite the above limitations, the outcomes of our center represent which lesions are stable and can be observed safely before definitive intervention.