Seventy-three patients with small (<6 cm in diameter) abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) were selected for nonoperative management and followed up with sequential ultrasound size measurements. Fifty-four men and 19 women, 51 to 89 years of age (mean 70 years), had an initial mean AAA size of 4.1 cm (anteroposterior) × 4.3 cm (lateral) diameter, with a calculated elliptic cross-sectional area of 14.3 cm2. After a mean of 37 months of follow-up, AAA area increased at a mean rate of 20% per year (3 cm2 yr; 0.4 to 0.5 cm/yr diameter). Expansion rate was not affected by initial aneurysm size. During follow-up, only 3 patients (4%) required urgent operation (1 died), 26 patients (36%) died of non-AAA causes, and 26 patients (36%) underwent elective AAA repair because of progressive size increase (1 died). Elective operations were performed at the rate of 10% per year, when mean AAA size had increased to 22 cm2 (5.1 cm in diameter). Multiple regression analysis of clinical parameters available at presentation indicated that subsequent elective AAA repair was predicted by younger age at diagnosis and larger initial aneurysm size. As anticipated, patients who underwent surgery had more rapid aneurysm expansion (5.3 cm2/yr) compared with patients who did not undergo surgery (1.6 cm2/yr; p < 0.05). This difference was caused by more rapid expansion during later follow-up intervals among patients selected for operation and was not predicted by the change in aneurysm size observed during initial ultrasonographic follow-up. Final aneurysm size was predicted by initial size, duration of follow-up, and both systolic and diastolic pressure. Larger initial size, longer follow-up, and widened pulse pressure predicted larger aneurysm size. Individual AAA expansion rates, however, were variable over time and could not be predicted by any parameters tested. Patients with small AAAs may be safely followed up if their pulse pressure is controlled and elective aneurysm repair is performed when aneurysm diameter reaches 5 to 6 cm based on sequential ultrasound size measurements.
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