Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a common—but preventable—cause of death in elderly men; 4% of men at the age of 65 years have an aorta >3 cm in diameter. Continued expansion runs the risk of aneurysm rupture, a condition that is fatal in all but 15% of individuals. A national screening programme has commenced that aims to reduce the number of deaths from aneurysm rupture by 50%. The programme will detect a large number of men with a small aneurysm who are not in imminent danger of rupture, but who will join a regular ultrasound programme of surveillance. If the aneurysm expansion rate could be reduced, fewer men would be at risk of aneurysm rupture, and fewer would need elective aneurysm repair. A considerable amount is known about the pathophysiology of aneurysm growth. Exploring pharmacological means to delay or reduce aneurysm growth could make a considerable contribution to any screening programme. A number of case control studies have suggested that some antihypertensive drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and statins may reduce aneurysm growth rates. Data from controlled studies have provided less secure conclusions. Use of these medications, together with lifestyle modification such as stopping smoking, could become standard advice to men with a small aortic aneurysm. Further studies of novel agents and larger controlled trials of existing drugs are warranted.
- abdominal aortic aneurysm
- vascular medicine
- vascular surgery
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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