The History of Incidentally Discovered Penetrating Aortic Ulcers of the Abdominal Aorta

Tanya Flohr, Klaus D. Hagspiel, Amit Jain, Margaret C. Tracci, John A. Kern, Irving L. Kron, Kenneth J. Cherry, Gilbert R. Upchurch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background The management of incidentally discovered penetrating ulcers of the abdominal aorta (PUAA) is not well described. Methods A search of computed tomography (CT) angiography imaging reports for the words “penetrating ulcer” was performed from October 2010 to August 2011. Patients with a PUAA were identified, and their clinical course was followed through December 2014 (n = 53). No specific intervention for the ulcers was sought unless additional aortic pathology necessitated intervention. Prospective and retrospective review of imaging was performed by dedicated vascular radiologists. Aortic diameters and ulcer dimensions were measured for patients with repeat imaging. Mann–Whitney U, Fisher's exact, and Pearson correlation coefficient tests were performed for statistical analysis. Results The calculated incidence of PUAA for patients undergoing CT imaging was 0.48%. Age at diagnosis was 71.6 ± 10.5 years in a population that included 35 (66.0%) males. Repeat imaging was performed for 29 (54.7%) patients. Median clinical and imaging follow-up was 36 (1–127) months and 34 (1–89) months. A history of hypertension (92.5%), hyperlipidemia (77.4%), and tobacco use (81.8%) was common. Twenty-seven (50.9%) had concomitant aneurysms not necessarily associated with PUAA. No aortic aneurysm or PUAA rupture occurred, but the population was sick with 19 patients (35.8%) deceased at the end of the study. Median aortic diameter growth rate through the PUAA was 0.5 (0–11.4) mm/year. No difference in mortality or aortic pathology was detected in patients with aortic growth rates >1 mm/year compared with <1 mm/year (P = 0.21 and P = 0.71, respectively). Conclusions Patients with PUAA in general are elderly with multiple comorbidities. A large percentage of patients have concurrent, separate, aortic pathology, most frequently aortic aneurysms. Small changes in the appearance of the PUAA were frequent but did not equate with abdominal aortic catastrophe. Long-term mortality for this population was high, but the ulcer growth during follow-up did not suggest PUAA treatment would improve survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-17
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Vascular Surgery
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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