When and how to replace the aortic arch for type A dissection
Acute type A aortic dissection (AAAD) remains one of the most challenging diseases in cardiothoracic surgery and despite numerous innovations in medical and surgical management, early mortality remains high. The standard treatment of AAAD requires emergency surgery of the proximal aorta, preventing rupture and consequent cardiac tamponade. Resection of the primary intimal tear and repair of the aortic root and aortic valve are well-established surgical principles. However, the dissection in the aortic arch and descending untreated aorta remains. This injury is associated with the risk of subsequent false lumen dilatation potentially progressing to rupture, true lumen compression and distal malperfusion. Additionally, the dilatation of the aortic arch, the presence of a tear and retrograde dissection can all be considered indication for a total arch replacement in AAAD. In such cases a more aggressive strategy may be used, from the classic aortic arch operation to a single stage frozen elephant trunk (FET) technique or a two-stage approach such as the classical elephant trunk (ET) or the recent Lupiae technique. Although these are all feasible solutions, they are also complex and time demanding techniques requiring experience and expertise, with an in the length of cardiopulmonary bypass and both myocardial and visceral ischemia. Effective methods of cerebral, myocardial as well visceral protection are necessary to obtain acceptable results in terms of hospital mortality and morbidity. Moreover, a correct assessment of the anatomy of the dissection, through the preoperative angio CT scan, in addition to the clinical condition of the patients, remain the decision points for the best arch repair strategy to use in AAAD.