Distal embolization as a presenting symptom of aortic aneurysms

B. Timothy Baxter, Gregory S. McGee, William R. Flinn*, Walter J. McCarthy, William H. Pearce, James S T Yao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The records of 302 patients who underwent abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair between 1985 and 1990 were reviewed. Two hundred and forty-eight patients (82%) were asymptomatic, while 32 patients (11%) had ruptured aneurysms. During this period, 15 patients (5%) presented with distal embolization as the first manifestation of their AAA. The preoperative embolic event resulted in limb-threatening ischemia in 3 patients, digital ischemia in 11, and calf myonecrosis in 1. CT scan was performed in 14 of 15 patients demonstrating irregular, heterogeneous thrombus within the AAA. Only two of the AAAs were larger than 5 cm. Angiography demonstrated occlusive lesions but was not diagnostic for AAA in seven patients and resulted in three episodes of embolization. AAA was repaired with a tube graft in 4 patients while a bifurcated graft was required in 11 patients for aneurysmal (in 4 patients) and occlusive disease (in 7 patients) of the iliac arteries. All cases employed a transperitoneal approach, systemic heparin, and distal occlusion prior to aortic clamping. Complications included three major (below-knee) and five minor amputations, developing or worsening renal failure in five patients (33%), and death in two (13%). In comparison, mortality was 5% for elective repair and 66% for rupture during this same period. CT scan was safer and more informative than angiography. The morbidity of patients with AAA presenting with emboli is comparable with rupture. The risk of embolization does not correlate with size and indicates the potentially dangerous nature of small AAAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-201
Number of pages5
JournalThe American Journal of Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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