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Interact Cardiovasc Thorac Surg. 2012 Apr;14(4):399-405. doi: 10.1093/icvts/ivr106. Epub 2012 Jan 19.

What is the role of screening in the management of abdominal aortic aneurysms?

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Department of Surgery, Poole General Hospital, Poole, UK.


A best-evidence topic in vascular surgery was written according to a structured protocol. The question addressed was whether screening asymptomatic individuals for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is feasible and improves disease-free survival. Seven studies presented the best evidence to answer the clinical question. The author, journal, date and country of publication, patient group studied, study type, relevant outcomes, results and limitations of the studies are tabulated. In total, four randomized population-based studies have evaluated ultrasound screening for AAA: two British studies, Multicentre Aneurysm Screening Study (MASS) and the Chichester trial, and one each in Viborg County, Denmark and Western Australia. Participants were randomized to receive an invitation to screen or not. The MASS trial randomized 67 770 men, followed participants over 10 years and concluded that screening would almost half AAA-related deaths in men aged 65-74 years. The smaller Chichester trial included only 6040 men but demonstrated a 42% reduction in AAA-related mortality at 5 years, with ongoing benefit at 15 years (11% reduction). The Viborg County trial recruited 12 639 men aged 64-73 years, showed a 66% reduction in AAA-related mortality over 14 years. Finally, the Western Australia trial evaluated 41 000 men but included an older population of 65-83 years old. No benefit was seen in this age group but subgroup analysis of men aged 65-74 showed a significant mortality benefit. Only a small or insignificant benefit in all-cause mortality was seen in any of these studies. A recent meta-analysis of these trials has shown a significant benefit in AAA-related mortality in the long term and concluded that AAA screening is superior to other established screening programmes. The cost-effectiveness of screening was assessed in the MASS and Viborg County trials and was found to be substantially below the cost threshold set by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence for acceptance of interventions. Quality of life was assessed in the MASS and in a case-control study and showed no adverse effects that outweigh the benefits. We concluded that ultrasound screening for AAAs has met all the criteria to become a screening programme and would substantially reduce disease-related death with no adverse effect on quality of life.

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