Benefits of aneurysm screenings doubtful, say researchers

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British researchers warned this week that routine screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms in over-65 males may be doing more harm than good.

Detection rates for AAAs boomed after formal screening methodologies became commonplace in the 1980s, but they've done very little to prevent overall mortality rates, scientists argue in Tuesday's issue of the British Medical Journal. Moreover, researchers contend, the biggest detriment has come in the form of over-diagnosis for a condition that would likely not have led to a patient's death if it had gone undetected.

The British Medical Journal's piece on AAA is part of a series it is undertaking on the risks and harms of over-diagnosis in medical practice, as well increasing use of new diagnostic technologies.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a swelling of the aorta and is common in male smokers over 65 years old. Most AAAs are small and at low risk of rupture, according to published reports.

Researchers concluded that AAA screening protocols should be “revisited” because of reduced benefits in modern populations and because data suggest considerable harm.