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Effect of Stiffened and Dilated Ascending Aorta on Aerobic Exercise Capacity in Repaired Patients With Complex Congenital Heart Disease

      Highlights

      • Dilated and stiff ascending aortae are common in complex congenital heart disease.
      • Aortopathy was involved only in the ascending aorta, not the descending aorta.
      • Dilated and stiff ascending aortae were associated with exercise intolerance.
      • These aortic abnormalities also stratified morbidity without a synergistic impact.
      • Our data demonstrated its clinical importance as a cardiovascular risk factor.
      Several studies have reported aortic dilation and increased stiffness of the ascending aorta in patients after repair of congenital heart disease (CHD), which may be a predominant cardiovascular risk. However, the clinical significance has not been described in detail. In this retrospective study, 175 repaired patients with complex CHD achieving biventricular circulation and age-matched 39 control subjects were reviewed (median age: 14.9 and 15.7 years, respectively). We measured the diameters of the ascending aorta and descending aorta from catheterization angiograms to yield Z-scores and stiffness indexes (β) using diameter fluctuations corresponding to pulsatile pressures. Clinical profile, peak oxygen uptake during the cardiopulmonary exercise test, and incidence of unscheduled hospitalization during follow-up was also reviewed. Compared with controls, patients with complex CHD, except for those with aortic coarctation, exhibited significant dilation and increased stiffness of the aortic root and ascending aorta, but not of the descending aorta. In this CHD population (n = 147, including 112 conotruncal anomalies), exercise capacities correlated independently with the diameter Z-score and stiffness index of the ascending aorta along with the history of repetitive thoracotomies, reduced forced vital capacity, and right ventricular hypertension. During a follow-up period (median 15.6 years), either dilation (Z-score >3.5) or increased stiffness (β >6.0) of the ascending aorta stratified morbidity, but no synergistic impact was detected. In conclusion, in repaired patients with complex CHD, a stiffened and dilated ascending aorta was frequently found, exerting significant adverse impacts on diminished exercise capacity and morbidity.

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