Aortic Atheroma Increases the Risk of Long-Term Mortality in 20,000 Patients

Carolyn Goldberg Butler, Jamahal Maeng Ho Luxford, Chuan Chin Huang, Julius I. Ejiofor, James D. Rawn, Kerry Wilusz, John A. Fox, Stanton K. Shernan, Jochen Daniel Muehlschlegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The association between long-term survival and aortic atheroma in cardiac surgical patients has not been comprehensively investigated. In this study we determine the relation between grade of atheroma and the risk of long-term mortality in a retrospective cohort of more than 20,000 patients undergoing cardiac operation during a 20-year period. Methods We included 22,304 consecutive intraoperative transesophageal and epiaortic ultrasound examinations performed at Brigham and Women's Hospital between 1995 and 2014, with long-term follow-up. The extent of atheromatous disease recorded in each examination was used for analysis. Mortality data were obtained from our institution's data registry. Mortality analyses were done using Cox proportional hazard regression models with follow-up as a time scale. We repeated the analysis in a subgroup of 14,728 patients with more detailed demographic characteristics, including postoperative stroke, queried from the institutional Society of Thoracic Surgeons database. Results A total of 7,722 mortality events and 872 stroke events occurred. Patients with atheromatous disease demonstrated a significant increase in mortality across all grades of severity, both for the ascending and descending aorta. This relation remained unchanged after adjusting for additional covariates. Adjustments for postoperative stroke resulted in only minimal attenuation in the risk of postoperative mortality related to aortic atheroma. Conclusions Aortic atheromatous disease of any grade in the ascending and descending aorta is a significant long-term risk of long-term, all-cause mortality in cardiac operation patients. This association remains independent of other conventional risk factors and is not related to postoperative cerebrovascular accidents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1325-1331
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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