Therapeutic decisions for patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis: room for improvement?
Objective: Symptomatic severe aortic stenosis is an indication for aortic valve replacement. Some patients are denied intervention. This study provides insight into the proportion of conservatively treated patients and into the reasons why conservative treatment is chosen. Methods: Of a patient cohort presenting with severe aortic stenosis between 2004 and 2007, medical records were retrospectively analyzed. Only symptomatic patients (n = 179) were included. We studied their characteristics, treatment decisions, and survival. Results: Mean age was 71 years, 50% were male. During follow-up (mean 17 months, 99% complete) 76 (42%) patients were scheduled for surgical treatment (63 conventional valve replacement, 10 transcatheter, 1 heart transplantation, 2 waiting list) versus 101 (56%) who received medical treatment. Reasons for medical treatment were: perceived high operative risk (34%), symptoms regarded mild (19%), stenosis perceived non-severe (14%), and patient preference (9%). In 5% the decision was pending at the time of the analysis and in 20% the reason was other/unclear. Mean age of the surgical group was 68 years versus 73 years for medically treated patients (p = 0.004). Predicted mortality (EuroSCORE) was 7.8% versus 11.3% (p = 0.006). During follow-up 12 patients died in the surgical group (no 30-day operative mortality), versus 28 in the medical group. Two-year survival was 90% versus 69%. Conclusions: A large proportion (56%) of symptomatic patients does not undergo aortic valve replacement. Often operative risk is estimated (too) high or hemodynamic severity and symptomatic status are misclassified. Interdisciplinary team discussions between cardiologists and surgeons should be encouraged to optimize patient selection for surgery.