Late-occurring pseudoaneurysms are preferably detected and evaluated by routine regular radiological follow-up and dealt with in a timely manner. Acute presentation portends a worse outcome and may mandate alternative surgical strategies.
The patient, a 58-year-old man, was operated twice for aortic coarctation in childhood; he had no signs of significant re-coarctation. In 1981, he underwent composite graft aortic root replacement (Bjork-Shiley 31 mm) for aortic valve endocarditis, and 31 years later, in 2012, he was reoperated, again due to suspected, culture-negative endocarditis. At reoperation, the aortic valve itself was deemed intact, fully functional, and uninfected, but two separate pseudoaneurysms due to anastomotic insufficiency were corrected at the distal anastomosis and at the reimplantation of the right coronary artery, respectively. After a course of antibiotics, the patient recovered well. Six months later, he returned in good general condition, but with two new presternal bulgings, as documented by a resident with his mobile phone camera (Fig. 1). At palpation, they were fluctuant, nontender, and very subtly discolored. Acute computed tomography (CT) scan (Fig. 2) and angiography (Fig. 3) confirmed leakage at the reimplanted left coronary artery. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning, but during the night, one of the bulges ruptured with ensuing hemorrhage, and the patient was taken immediately to the operating room.
With the patient in stable condition, the groin was cannulated and extracorporeal circulation instituted. The patient was cooled to deep (18°C) hypothermia and then resternotomy was performed, with entrance into a partially thrombosed retrosternal pseudoaneurysm. The ascending graft was identified and clamped. Perfusion was restarted and cold blood cardioplegia was administered antegradely, helping to identify the bleeding at the anticipated location, cranially-dorsally in the left coronary artery anastomosis. Due to the very severely calcified adhesions surrounding the aortic root and graft (Fig. 2), a decision was made to suture the defect using pledgeted 4/0 monofilament suture rather than attempt a complete re-anastomosis of the left coronary artery. Bleeding was controlled, the patient was rewarmed and separated from bypass, and the operation was completed. Apart from temporary neurologic deficit, recovery was, again, uneventful and the patient was discharged 12 days later. Radiological follow-up 18 months later showed no evidence of pseudoaneurysm. Clinically he is well restituted, working full-time.
Aortic aneurysms and pseudoaneurysms may, rarely, erode the sternum or chest wall and present as “subcutaneous” bulging or swelling usually accompanied by pain . In this particular patient, the sternum was not completely healed after a redo operation a year earlier (Fig. 2), allowing blood to seep painlessly between the sternal edges. Both CT and angiography were diagnostic of the underlying condition. Surgically, our institution's previously described strategy of preoperative circulatory arrest before resternotomy, without left ventricular decompression , proved efficient in avoiding foreseeable bleeding problems and in myocardial protection.