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Experts urging artery screening in the UK

A national screening program is in the offing for abdominal aortic aneurysm, a blood vessel condition which kills thousands each year in the UK, a magazine reports.

This condition, a swelling // in the main blood vessel from the heart which can kill if it bursts, accounts for 1.36% of deaths in men over 65 in the UK. The National Screening Committee (NSC) has backed routine screening for men in that age group, Pulse magazine says.

An aortic aneurysm is a swelling caused by damage or weakness in the wall of the body's biggest blood vessel, which carries blood from the heart to all organs. The pressure of blood causes weakened areas to balloon and, if they burst, it may be fatal.

About 13,000 men aged 65-75 were found to have a swelling of the aorta in 2000. Of these, about 33 per cent had an aneurysm large enough to require urgent surgery. The condition accounts for 1.4 per cent of deaths in men over 65 in the UK and for 0.45 per cent of deaths in women.

The Department of Health says ministers will consider the NSC's proposals.

This condition affects men more than women—statistics suggest abdominal aortic aneurysm accounts for 0.45% of deaths among women aged over 65 - but some groups say women should not be excluded from any screening program.

The NSC's decision follows various recent studies finding ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms could be effective.

Surgery will be recommended for aneurysms over 5cm in diameter.

The NSC is recommending screening for aortic aneurysm, but there is an issue over lack of treatment services.

Although the incidence will be lower in women there will still be a significant number and we have to be very careful about excluding women from the cardiovascular picture. Although the risk to women from this potentially life threatening condition is lower than to men, gender should not be a factor on which to base treatment or care
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