The natural history of aortic dilatation in Marfan syndrome

J. Hwa, J. G. Richards, H. Huang, D. McKay, L. Pressley, C. F. Hughes, R. W. Jeremy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To determine the relationship between age and aortic dilatation in patients with Marfan syndrome and to define the rate of progression of aortic dilatation in these patients. Design: All patients were evaluated in a multidisciplinary clinic to establish a firm diagnosis of Marfan syndrome. Aortic dimensions were measured by echocardiography and patients with Marfan syndrome were followed up with annual physical and echocardiographic examinations to detect any change in aortic diameter over the subsequent four years. Patients. One hundred and fifty-seven patients were referred to the clinic for assessment, of whom 40 exhibited diagnostic features of Marfan syndrome. Only 24 of these patients had previously been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, while 17 other patients, previously diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, had insufficient clinical features to justify the diagnosis. Results: Among the 40 patients (19 male, 21 female) with Marfan syndrome (mean age, 28±15 years), the prevalence of cardiovascular abnormalities was 90%. Aortic root dilatation was present in 78% of patients, aortic regurgitation in 28%, mitral valve prolapse in 65% and mitral regurgitation in 35%. Mean aortic root diameter in the Marfan patients (21.4±4.0 mm/m2 body surface area) markedly exceeded that of age and sex matched controls without Marfan syndrome (14.9±2.2 mm/m2) and that of first-degree relatives without Marfan syndrome (15.3±2.9 mm/m2). The occurrence of aortic dilatation in Marfan syndrome was variable, with patients as young as 20 years exhibiting severe dilatation. All patients with Marfan syndrome exhibiting aortic dilatation were advised to take β-adrenergic blocking drugs, unless contraindicated, in an effort to retard the rate of aortic dilatation. Among 33 patients followed up for at least one year, 14 (42%) exhibited an increase in aortic diameter of at least 2 mm, while 16 of 23 patients (70%) followed up for at least three years exhibited similar progression of aortic dilatation. The overall mean rate of dilatation in the Marfan patients was 1.9 mm per year. Nine patients developed aortic dilatation of more than 50 mm diameter during four years' follow-up and required surgical repair of the aorta. Each of these patients is well at between three months' and four years' follow-up. Conclusions: Aneurysmal dilatation of the aorta is a common complication of Marfan syndrome and may become manifest at an early age. Furthermore, aortic dilatation can progress rapidly, even in the absence of symptoms. Individuals with Marfan syndrome should have annual echocardiographic examinations to monitor aortic root dimensions, and those exhibiting rapid progression of aortic dilatation or an aortic root diameter in excess of 50 mm, should be considered for elective composite graft repair of the aorta.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)558-562
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


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