DoH abdominal aortic aneurysm screen plans questioned

DoH plans to screen all men over 65 for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) could leave many knowing they are a ticking time bomb, with no option of surgery, claims a top surgeon.

In January, prime minister Gordon Brown said he wanted AAA screening across England and Wales over the next 10 years.

These plans look likely to go ahead, although the five pilot centres will not be running until the end of this year. 

But former BMA chairman James Johnson, a consultant vascular surgeon at Halton General Hospital in Cheshire, writing in the BMJ, said that as with any arterial disease, AAA is unlikely to occur in isolation.

Comorbidities could leave patients unsuitable for surgery, but with the knowledge that they have an AAA that could rupture at any time. 

Another ethical dilemma is that one in 14 patients undergoing aneurysm repair will die because of the procedure, added Mr Johnson.

BMJ 2008; 336: 862–3

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