Learning curve analysis of thoracic endovascular aortic repair in relation to credentialing guidelines

Thomas L. Forbes, Michael W.A. Chu, D. Kirk Lawlor, Guy DeRose, Kenneth A. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Recently, practice guideline documents have recommended the completion of different levels of interventional experience and 5 or 10 thoracic endovascular aortic cases prior to surgeon credentialing. This study's purpose was to determine whether these requirements are valid by reviewing three surgeons' learning curves with thoracic aortic endovascular repairs. Methods: Between 1998 and 2006, 67 patients underwent emergent or elective endovascular repair of thoracic aortic pathologies by one of three vascular surgeons with extensive experience with catheter manipulation and abdominal aortic endografts. Following standard retrospective review, each surgeon's learning curve was analyzed using the cumulative sum failure method with a target success rate of 95% derived from the literature. The main outcome variable was primary technical success. Results: These 67 patients presented with several pathologies including elective (n = 31) and ruptured (n = 11) thoracic aortic aneurysms, acute dissections or aortic ulcers (n = 10), and acute blunt thoracic aortic trauma (n = 15). The mean age was 65 (range: 20 to 90) and the early (30 day) mortality rate was 19.4% in urgent cases (n = 36) and 0% in elective cases (n = 31). Paraplegia occurred in two patients (3%). Primary technical success was achieved in 62 cases (92.5%) and did not differ between surgeons (92.6%, 91.3%, 94.1%, respectively; P = .9). Each surgeon's cases were plotted sequentially and the resulting learning curves were similar. Although acceptable outcomes were obtained throughout the study period, improved results, compared with the target success rate, were not achieved until each surgeon treated 5 to 10 patients. Conclusion: This study supports the case volume requirements of the Society for Vascular Surgery credentialing guidelines, which also requires extensive catheter and guidewire experience. With this background in catheter manipulation and endovascular abdominal aortic repair, surgeons can achieve optimal outcomes with thoracic aortic lesions following 5 to 10 cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-222
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Vascular Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


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