Indexed on: 14 Oct '16Published on: 14 Oct '16Published in: Seminars in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAA) pose a serious detection challenge due to the clinically silent nature. Only a small fraction of TAAs cause symptoms in patients. However, the mortality burden of this disease in the population is significant, given the high lethality of such complications as aortic rupture and dissection. Widespread screening for TAA has not been shown to be cost-effective. Therefore, currently the majority of patients with a TAA are identified incidentally during an imaging study conducted for other reasons. Once a TAA diagnosis is established, prophylactic surgical treatment can safely be performed for aneurysms of the ascending aorta, aortic arch, and descending/thoracoabdominal aorta, thus preventing aneurysm-related death. To facilitate early detection of TAA, recent studies have identified several “associates” of TAA that may be useful in making a timely diagnosis. These “associates” include intracranial aneurysm, aortic arch anomalies, abdominal aortic aneurysm, simple renal cysts, bicuspid aortic valve, temporal arteritis, a positive family history of aneurysm disease, and a positive thumb-palm sign, among others. Although for many of these “associates” the underlying mechanism that would explain the association remains to be elucidated, the clinical correlation is strong enough to suggest screening patients with these findings for TAA. This manuscript will introduce the “Guilt by Association” paradigm for detection of silent thoracic aortic disease based on detection of clinical markers associated with this condition.