Reassessing the operative threshold for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair in the context of COVID-19 Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: The worldwide pandemic involving the novel respiratory syndrome (COVID-19) has forced health care systems to delay elective operations, including abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair, to conserve resources. This study provides a structured analysis of the decision to delay AAA repair and quantify the potential for harm. METHODS: A decision tree was constructed modeling immediate repair of AAA relative to an initial nonoperative (delayed repair) approach. Risks of COVID-19 contraction and mortality, aneurysm rupture, and operative mortality were considered. A deterministic sensitivity analysis for a range of patient ages (50 to >80), probability of COVID-19 infection (0.01%-30%), aneurysm size (5.5 to >7 cm), and time horizons (3-9 months) was performed. Probabilistic sensitivity analyses were conducted for three representative ages (60, 70, and 80). Analyses were conducted for endovascular aortic aneurysm repair (EVAR) and open surgical repair (OSR). RESULTS: Patients with aneurysms 7 cm or greater demonstrated a higher probability of survival when treated with immediate EVAR or OSR, compared with delayed repair, for patients under 80 years of age. When considering EVAR for aneurysms 5.5 to 6.9 cm, immediate repair had a higher probability of survival except in settings with a high probability of COVID-19 infection (10%-30%) and advanced age (70-85+ years). A nonoperative strategy maximized the probability of survival as patient age or operative risk increased. Probabilistic sensitivity analyses demonstrated that patients with large aneurysms (>7 cm) faced a 5.4% to 7.7% absolute increase in the probability of mortality with a delay of repair of 3 months. Young patients (60-70 years) with aneurysms 6 to 6.9 cm demonstrated an elevated risk of mortality (1.5%-1.9%) with a delay of 3 months. Those with aneurysms 5 to 5.9 cm demonstrated an increased survival with immediate repair in young patients (60); however, this was small in magnitude (0.2%-0.8%). The potential for harm increased as the length of surgical delay increased. For elderly patients requiring OSR, in the context of endemic COVID-19, delay of repair improves the probability of survival. CONCLUSIONS: The decision to delay operative repair of AAA should consider both patient age and local COVID-19 prevalence in addition to aneurysm size. EVAR should be considered when possible due to a reduced risk of harm and lower resource utilization.


  • McGuinness, Brandon
  • Troncone, Michael
  • James, Lyndon P
  • Bisch, Steve P
  • Iyer, Vikram

publication date

  • March 2021