During the 10 years from 1964 to 1973, fifteen patients with severe syphilitic aortic regurgitation were treated surgically at the National Heart Hospital. In thirteen the valve was replaced and in two it was repaired. In addition four had replacement of an aneurysmal ascending aorta with a Dacron graft and seven some form of plastic repair to the coronary ostia. Three patients died within 1 month of surgery and a further six during the follow-up period which varied from 1 to 55 months (mean 25-5). The six survivors have been followed-up for an average of 33 months. Factors contributing to this high mortality were analysed and it was found that the mean duration of effort dyspnoea was 22 months in the survivors compared with 48 months in those who had died. Similarly the average duration of nocturnal dyspnoea was 4 months in the survivors compared with a mean of 8 months in those who had died. Only six out of the fifteen patients had angina; this was present in two of the survivors and in four of the fatalities. The pulse pressure, heart size, and haemodynamic findings were similar in the two groups. The prognostic value of an elevated erythocyte sedimentation rate was also examined. It was concluded that preoperative investigations should include aortography, coronary arteriography, an assessment of left ventricular function, and whenever possible myocardial biopsy. These data were interpreted as suggesting that patients should be referred for surgery at an earlier stage in the disease--certainly before the onset of cardiac failure and--and that if this more aggresive attitude was adopted, as it has been in non-syphilitic cases of aortic valve disease, the present high mortality in this group would be reduced.
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