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Ulster Med J. 2005 Sep;74(2):113-21.

Periods of low atmospheric pressure are associated with high abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture rates in Northern Ireland.

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Regional Vascular Surgery Unit, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.


Seasonal and circadian variation in the incidence of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (RAAA) has been reported. We explored the role of atmospheric pressure changes on rupture incidence and its relationship to cardiovascular risk factors. During a three year-period, 1st April 1998 and 31st March 2001, data was prospectively acquired on 144 Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (RAAA) presenting to the Regional Vascular Surgery Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, Northern Ireland. For each patient the chronology of acute onset of symptoms and presentation to the regional vascular unit was recorded, along with details of standard cardiovascular risk factors. During the same period meteorological data including atmospheric pressure and air temperature were recorded daily at the regional meteorological research unit, Armagh. We then analyzed the monthly mean values for daily rupture incidence in relation to the monthly values for atmospheric pressure, pressure change and temperature. Furthermore atmospheric pressure on the day of rupture, and day preceding rupture, were also analyzed in relation to days without rupture presentation and between individual ruptures for various cardiovascular risk factors. Data demonstrated a significant monthly variation in aneurysm rupture frequency, (p<0.03, ANOVA). There was also a significant monthly variation in mean barometric atmospheric pressure, (p<0.0001, ANOVA), months with high rupture frequency also exhibiting low average pressures in the months of April (0.24 +/- 0.04 ruptures per day and 1007.78 +/- 1.23 mB) and September (0.16 +/- 0.04 ruptures per day and 1007.12 +/- 1.14 mB), respectively. The average barometric pressures were found to be significantly lower on those days when ruptures occurred (n=1127) compared to days when ruptures did not occur (n=969 days), (1009.98 +/- 1.11 versus 1012.09 +/- 0.41, p<0.05). Full data on risk factors was available on 103 of the 144 rupture patients and was further analyzed. Interestingly, RAAA with a known history of hypertension, (n=43), presented on days with significantly lower atmospheric pressure than those without, (n=60), (1008.61 +/- 2.16 versus 1012.14 +/- 1.70, p<0.05). Further analysis of ruptures grouped into those occurring on days above or below mean annual atmospheric pressure 1013.25 (approximately 1 atmosphere), by Chi-square test, revealed three cardiovascular risk factors significantly associated with low-pressure rupture, (p<0.05). Data represents mean +/- SEM, statistical comparisons with Student t-test and ANOVA. These data demonstrate a significant association between periods of low barometric pressure and high incidence of ruptured aneurysm, especially in those patients with known hypertension. The association between rupture incidence and barometric pressure warrants further study as it may influence the timing of elective AAA repair.

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