Objectives: We previously showed that peak abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) wall stress calculated for aneurysms in vivo is higher at rupture than at elective repair. The purpose of this study was to analyze rupture risk over time in patients under observation. Methods: Computed tomography (CT) scans were analyzed for patients with AAA when observation was planned for at least 6 months. AAA wall stress distribution was computationally determined in vivo with CT data, three-dimensional computer modeling, finite element analysis (nonlinear hyperelastic model depicting aneurysm wall behavior), and blood pressure during observation. Results: Analysis included 103 patients and 159 CT scans (mean follow-up, 14 ± 2 months per CT). Forty-two patients were observed with no intervention for at least 1 year (mean follow-up, 28 ± 3 months). Elective repair was performed within 1 year in 39 patients, and emergent repair was performed in 22 patients (mean, 6 ± 1 month after CT) for rupture (n = 14) or acute severe pain. Significant differences were found for initial diameter (observation, 4.9 ± .1 cm; elective repair, 5.9 ± .1 cm; emergent repair, 6.1 ± .2 cm; P < .0001) and initial peak wall stress (38 ± 1 N/cm2, 42 ± 2 n/cm2 58 ± 4 N/cm2, respectively; P < .0001), but peak wall stress appeared to better differentiate patients who later required emergent repair (elective vs emergent repair: diameter, 3% difference, P = .5; stress, 38% difference, P < .0001). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves for predicting rupture were better for peak wall stress (sensitivity, 94%; specificity, 81%; accuracy, 85% [with 44 N/cm2 threshold]) than for diameter (81%, 70%, 73%, respectively [with optimal 5.5 cm threshold). With proportional hazards analysis, peak wall stress (relative risk, 25×) and gender (relative risk, 3×) were the only significant independent predictors of rupture. Conclusions: For AAAs under observation, peak AAA wall stress seems superior to diameter in differentiating patients who will experience catastrophic outcome. Elevated wall stress associated with rupture is not simply an acute event near the time of rupture.
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