Surgical management of atheroembolization

Richard R. Keen, Walter J. McCarthy, Paula K. Shireman, Joseph Feinglass, William H. Pearce, Joseph R. Durham, James S T Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Purpose: Atheroembolization may cause limb loss or organ failure. Surgical outcome data are limited. We report the largest series of atheroembolization focusing on patterns of disease, surgical treatment and outcome. Methods: One hundred patients (70 men), mean age 62±11 years, operated on for lower extremity, visceral, or nonthoracic outlet upper extremity atheroemboli were identified prospectively and monitored over a 12-year period. The atheroembolic source was localized by use of a combination of computed tomography scanning (n=55), arteriography (n=93), duplex scanning (n=25), transesophageal echocardiography (n=6), and magnetic resonance imaging (n=4). Occlusive aortoiliac disease (47 patients) and small aortic aneurysms (20 patients; mean aneurysm size 3.5±0.8 cm) were the most common source of atheroemboli. Imaging studies revealed 12 patients with extensive suprarenal aortic thrombus. Correction of the embolic source was achieved with aortic bypass (n=52), aortoiliac endarterectomy and patch (n=11), femoral or popliteal endarterectomy and patch (n=11), infrainguinal bypass (n=3), extraanatomic reconstruction (n=6), graft revision (n=3), upper extremity bypass (n=11), or upper extremity endarterectomy and patch (n=3). Results: All four deaths within 30 days and all seven deaths within the first 6 months after operation were among the 12 patients with suprarenal aortic thrombus. The cumulative survival probabilites for all patients at 1, 3, and 5 years were 89%, 83%, and 73%, respectively. After operation, nine patients required major leg amputations and 10 required toe amputations. Renal atheroemboli led to hemodialysis in 10 patients. Recurrent embolic events occurred in five of 97 patients monitored for a mean of 32 months. All five recurrences occurred in the first 8 months after operation. Three patients with recurrent emboli had suprarenal aortic disease, one of whom had undergone axillofemorofemoral bypass. Four of 15 patients receiving postoperative warfarin anticoagulation had development of recurrent embolism. Only one patient not receiving postoperative warfarin had a recurrent event (p<0.05 by Fisher exact test). Conclusion: The atheroembolic source is the aorta or iliac arteries in two thirds of patients who underwent operation. Computed tomography scanning of the aorta is a useful diagnostic technique. The source of the emboli can be eliminated surgically with low mortality or limb loss rates except when the suprarenal aorta is involved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-781
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery


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