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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 01:46 GMT
Experts 'urging artery screening'
Heart patient
Aneurysms can go undetected
Experts have recommended a national screening programme for a blood vessel condition which kills thousands each year in the UK, a magazine reports.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm - 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.

The National Screening Committee (NSC) has backed routine screening for men in that age group, Pulse magazine says.

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

The risk to women is thought to be lower than for men - 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 programme.

It looks good but there's a lot of work needed
Sir Muir Gray

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

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

Work to do

Sir Muir Gray, director of the National Screening Programmes, told Pulse magazine: "We are recommending screening for aortic aneurysm, but there is an issue over lack of treatment services.

"It looks good but there's a lot of work needed."

Dr Terry McCormack, chair of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society, told Pulse: "If you can put an evidence-based argument forward, it's a worthwhile thing to do.

"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."

Cathy Ross, of the British Heart Foundation, agreed that women should also be considered for screening.

She said: "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."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Ministers will be considering the UK National Screening Committee's detailed proposals shortly and will take all its detailed recommendations into account."

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