Objective: The authors reviewed the morbidity and mortality of surgical resection of the descending thoracic and thoracoabdominal aorta using the clamp-and-sew technique. Background: Paraplegia remains a devastating complication after thoraoabdominal aortic resection, despite many strategies for spinal cord protection. Because of its simplicity, clamp and sew has been the preferred technique at the University of Virginia for thoracoabdominal aortic resection when proximal control is possible. Methods: Between 1987 and 1994, the authors reviewed 91 consecutive patients who underwent thoracic aortic resection using clamp-and-sew techniques without any additional adjuncts for spinal cord protection. Results: The average age of patients was 60.8 years; 57.1% were male. No intraoperative deaths occurred. In-hospital mortality was 13% (12/91), with an overall incidence of postoperative spinal cord injury manifested as paraparesis or paraplegia of 9.9% (9/91). Eighty- nine percent (81/91) of all repairs were completed with aortic clamp times of 40 minutes or less, and nearly six out of ten were completed in 30 minutes or less (53/91). Cross-clamp times were not significantly different between those patients who sustained neurologic injury and those who had no deficits. Conclusions: The authors conclude that clamp and sew is still a viable technique for thoracoabdominal aortic resection. Nearly all resections can be completed within 40 minutes of aortic occlusion. However, the 'safe' duration of thoracic aortic occlusion remains unknown, and spinal cord injury can occur even with short clamp times. Reproducible, safe, and technically simple means of spinal cord protection must be developed.
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