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UK AAA Ultrasound Screening Has Big Goals

July 15, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Abdominal Imaging, Cardiac Imaging, Chest Radiology
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The recently completed rollout of the NHS Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme in the United Kingdom could save 2,500 lives a year in England and Wales alone, according to a surgeon who helped develop it.

Gareth Morris, MCh, a consultant vascular surgeon at Southampton General Hospital in Southampton, said such aneurysms kill 5,000 people annually in England and Wales.  The programme … uh, program aims to reduce by 50 percent the deaths from ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms among men 65 or older. All UK men in that age group are eligible for AAA screening.

Dr. Morris said the screening consists of a 10-minute ultrasound scan:

There are so many avoidable deaths from abdominal aortic aneurysms, and it is a real tragedy because we know a quick scan will save lives through either monitoring or corrective surgery.

He was quoted in a news release from University Hospital Southampton.

The United States has been more cautious about AAA screening. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends one-time ultrasound screening for men 65 to 75 who smoke or once smoked. It makes no recommendation either way for men in that age group who have never smoked, is silent about men in other age groups, and recommends against routine screening for women.

“The condition is often symptomless,” Dr. Morris said, “so I would strongly advise men to consider the offer of a screening test, which is a simple scan similar to that offered to women in pregnancy, particularly if they are in a high-risk group.”

According to University Hospital Southampton, men are six times more likely to develop such an aneurysm than women, especially current or former smokers, those with high blood pressure, and those with a parent or sibling who has had the condition.

“Symptomless” is right. If my strong, active father experienced any symptoms, he never mentioned them. His undetected aneurysm ruptured without warning at age 73 when he was working on a tire; two days later, he was dead. I’m admittedly biased, but, as someone with a risk factor, I certainly plan to get screened at age 65.

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