Comparison of Antero-posterior and Transverse Aortic Diameters: Implications for Routine Aneurysm Surveillance

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  • SHORT REPORT

    Comparison of Antero-posterior and Transverse AorticDiameters: Implications for Routine Aneurysm Surveillance

    R. J. Holdsworth* and C. Shearer

    Department of Vascular Surgery, Stirling Royal Infirmary, Livilands, Stirling FK8 2AU, Scotland, UK

    Introduction

    The current management of abdominal aortic aneur-ysms has been determined by the UK small aneurysmtrial.1 This study reported that surgical treatment ofaneurysms #5.5 cm in diameter conferred no survivalbenefits and the risk of rupture was ,1% per annumfor aneurysms smaller than this size. On the basis ofthese results it has become customary to monitoraneurysms smaller than 5.5 cm by regular ultrasoundsurveillance and consider surgery only when theyreach this size.

    The aortic measurement used for the UK smallaneurysm study was the anteriorposterior (AP)diameter. This dimension was selected on the basisof a small pilot study showing the AP diameter wasmore reproducible than the transverse diameterbetween scans and gave a better correlation to thediameter measured on CT scan.2

    A number of years ago, we started routinelyreporting both AP and transverse diameters of ouraneurysms. In this study, we compare the results ofthese measurements and introduce the concept of themean cross-sectional area as a basis for aneurysmmeasurement.

    Methods

    Patients with aortic aneurysms were identified from acomputerised registry which detailed demographic

    data and all ultrasound measurements includingrepeat surveillance scans.

    Only those aneurysms with simultaneous AP andtransverse diameter measurement were included.Aortic measurements with both diameters ,3.0 cmand those measured only by CT were excluded. Ininstances when patients had multiple measurementsas part of our surveillance program only the mostrecent measurement was used.

    We assessed two methods for calculating anapproximate mean cross-sectional area (Fig. 1). Bothof these were based on using the formula for calcu-lating the area of a perfect disc pr2: Both methods aretherefore based on finding a value for the radius. Inmethod 1, the mean radius was calculated by takingthe sum of both diameters, dividing by 4 and squaringthe result. In method 2, each diameter was halvedand the values multiplied. We decided to use method 2for the purpose of this study because for moreelliptical aneurysms it calculated a slightly lowerarea (Fig. 1). In practice the difference calculated wasmarginal being only 0.2 cm2 for a diameter differenceof 1 cm. Examples of differences in calculated areabetween these two methods are shown in Fig. 1.

    Results

    A total of 185 aneurysms were identified for this studyof which 128 (69%) were in men. The distribution ofaneurysms based on the largest diameter is illustratedin Table 1. Two-thirds of the aneurysms (65%) were,5.5 cm in maximum diameter and 37 (20%) had bothdiameters $5.5 cm. The remaining 27 (15%) had onediameter $5.5 cm and the other , 5.5 cm.

    Ninety-four aneurysms had ,3 mm difference in

    Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg 27, 100102 (2004)

    doi: 10.1016/j.ejvs.2003.09.008, available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com on

    *Corresponding author: R. J. Holdsworth, Department of VascularSurgery, Stirling Royal Infirmary, Livilands, Stirling FK8 2AU,Scotland, UK.

    10785884/000100 + 03 $35.00/0 q 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

  • their dimensions. Of the remainder, 77 had a greatertransverse diameter and only 14 had a greater APdiameter. Forty-five (24%) had a transverse diameterthat exceed the AP $ 0.5 cm and only 11 (6%) had agreater AP diameter of $0.5 cm. Of the 27 aneurysmswith one diameter $5.5 cm and the other ,5.5 cm, 17had a greater transverse diameter. Thus, 17 patientsmay not have been offered surgery if the criteria of theUK small aneurysm trial were rigidly applied.

    Being conscious of this discrepancy in measure-ment of aneurysms with an elliptical cross-section, weexplored the relationship of the diameters with thecalculated area.

    A 5.5 5.5 cm aneurysm would have a calculatedcross-sectional area of 23.67 cm2. Of those aneurysmswith both diameters $5.5 cm, the smallest calculatedarea was 24.19 cm2. The most difficult managementdecisions will occur when one diameter is $5.5 cmand the other is ,5.5 cm. Of the 17 aneurysms with agreater transverse diameter, the smallest calculatedarea was 22.06 cm2 and in the 10 with a greater APdiameter the smallest area was 20.43 cm2. We found afurther nine aneurysms in our series with bothdiameters ,5.5 but an area of greater than 20 cm2

    and all had at least one diameter .5.1 cm.A more detailed breakdown of the aneurysms

    based on calculated areas between 20 and 29 cm2 isin Table 2. Above a cross-sectional area of 23 cm2, allaneurysms had at least one diameter greater than5.5 cm. Interestingly, we found 12 aneurysms with anAP diameter ,5.5 and area .23 cm2.

    Discussion

    The assessment of aortic aneurysm size based on asingle diameter measurements is inherently inaccurateand this study has shown that at least one third ofaneurysms have an elliptical cross-section to the extentthat there is .0.5 cm difference in the two diameters.The true relationship between size and risk of ruptureis not known and it is almost certainly a multi-factorialproblem.3,4 Probably the ideal measurement for asses-sing aneurysms would be based on volume scanning.However, this would require the use of spiral CTscanning, which for many hospitals may be imprac-tical and would also expose the patients to repeateddoses of radiation. For practical reasons alone we needa relatively simple method of assessment that is easilyunderstood, validated and repeatable.5 Although themeasurement techniques in this paper have not beenvalidated internally, all scans were undertaken bytrained sonographers and variation in measurementsis therefore likely to be within clinically acceptablevariation. We feel that this reflects actual practice inmany institutions and that it is important to reportvariations in measurements that occur in routineclinical practice.

    The relatively poor correlation previously reportedbetween CT and ultrasound for measurement of thetransverse diameter2 may be explained by the fact thataneurysms are frequently associated with elongationof the vessel. A CT scan will transect the aneurysmin the transverse plane of the body rather than

    Table 1. Distribution of the size of aneurysms based on the maximum diameter. The totals have been broken down to the componentparts to demonstrate which is the greatest measurement.

    Maximum diameter (cm) Total n Greater AP diameter Greater transverse diameter$10 mm 59 mm 34 mm ,3 mm Equal ,3 mm 34 mm 59 mm $10 mm

    ,4.0 55 0 2 0 5 15 16 10 7 04.04.9 45 0 0 1 4 8 13 8 7 45.05.4 21 0 0 0 4 4 4 4 4 15.55.9 24 1 2 2 5 2 4 4 4 06.06.4 17 2 0 0 1 5 0 3 3 36.56.9 13 1 2 0 1 1 0 3 2 3.7.0 10 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 2 5

    Totals 185 4 7 3 21 36 37 32 29 16

    Fig. 1. Illustration of the method of calculating mean cross-sectional area by two methods based on different aneurysm sizes.

    Comparison of Antero-posterior and Transverse Aortic Diameters 101

    Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg Vol 27, January 2004

  • perpendicularly to the aneurysm giving an apparentlarger diameter.5 In addition, because aneurysms areassociated with elongation, the lumber vertebrae willprohibit posterior expansion and elongation is there-fore more likely to occur laterally.

    We have found the concept of using a calculatedmean cross-sectional area as a convenient way ofeliminating the problem of the discrepancy in aneur-ysm diameter. Although we accept that this is, at best,an approximation of the true cross-sectional area, webelieve that it offers a better assessment than a singleAP or transverse measurement.

    The use of mean cross-sectional area calculationalso allows us to study asymmetric growth of theaneurysm. Thus, if expansion occurs in one dimensionfollowed, a year later, by expansion in the otherdimension, we have the ability to analyse the changein mean cross-sectional change with time.

    The majority of institutions probably use routineultrasound surveillance for their aortic aneurysms. Itcould be argued that measurement of cross-sectionalarea may add to the complexity of scanning. Inpractice we have found that this additional measure-ment is rapid, does not slow down scan time andstandardises routine aneurysm assessment in clinicalpractice. We would suggest that routine reports onaortic aneurysms should contain details of at least twomeasurements undertaken at right angle planes.

    References

    1 The UK Small Aneurysm Trial Participants. Mortality results forrandomised controlled trial of early elective surgery or ultrasonicsurveillance for small abdominal aortic aneurysms. Lancet 1998;352:16491655.

    2 Ellis M, Powell JT, Greenhalgh RM. Limitations of ultrasono-graphy in surveillance of small abdominal aortic aneurysms. Br JSurg 1991; 78: 614616.

    3 Scott RAP, Ashton HA, Lamparelli MJ, Harris GJC, StevensJW. A 14 year experience with 6 cm as a criterion for surgicaltreatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm. Br J Surg 1999; 86:13171321.

    4 Wilmink ABM, Quick CRG. Epidemiology and potential forprevention of abdominal aortic aneurysm. Br J Surg 1998; 85:155162.

    5 Lindholt JS, Vammen S, Juul S, Henneberg EW, Fasting H. Thevalidity of ultrasound scanning as screening method for abdomi-nal aortic aneurysm. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg 1999; 17: 472475.

    Accepted 9 September 2003

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    R. J. Holdsworth and C. Shearer102

    Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg Vol 27, January 2004

    Comparison of Antero-posterior and Transverse Aortic Diameters: Implications for Routine Aneurysm SurveillanceIntroductionMethodsResultsDiscussionReferences

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