Importance: Small abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs [3.0 cm-5.4 cm in diameter]) are monitored by ultrasound surveillance. The intervals between surveillance scans should be chosen to detect an expanding aneurysm prior to rupture.
Objective: To limit risk of aneurysm rupture or excessive growth by optimizing ultrasound surveillance intervals.
Data sources and study selection: Individual patient data from studies of small AAA growth and rupture were assessed. Studies were identified for inclusion through a systematic literature search through December 2010. Study authors were contacted, which yielded 18 data sets providing repeated ultrasound measurements of AAA diameter over time in 15,471 patients.
Data extraction: AAA diameters were analyzed using a random-effects model that allowed for between-patient variability in size and growth rate. Rupture rates were analyzed by proportional hazards regression using the modeled AAA diameter as a time-varying covariate. Predictions of the risks of exceeding 5.5-cm diameter and of rupture within given time intervals were estimated and pooled across studies by random effects meta-analysis.
Results: AAA growth and rupture rates varied considerably across studies. For each 0.5-cm increase in AAA diameter, growth rates increased on average by 0.59 mm per year (95% CI, 0.51-0.66) and rupture rates increased by a factor of 1.91 (95% CI, 1.61-2.25). For example, to control the AAA growth risk in men of exceeding 5.5 cm to below 10%, on average, a 7.4-year surveillance interval (95% CI, 6.7-8.1) is sufficient for a 3.0-cm AAA, while an 8-month interval (95% CI, 7-10) is necessary for a 5.0-cm AAA. To control the risk of rupture in men to below 1%, the corresponding estimated surveillance intervals are 8.5 years (95% CI, 7.0-10.5) and 17 months (95% CI, 14-22).
Conclusion and relevance: In contrast to the commonly adopted surveillance intervals in current AAA screening programs, surveillance intervals of several years may be clinically acceptable for the majority of patients with small AAA.