Overview of screening eligibility in patients undergoing ruptured AAA repair from 2003 to 2019 in the Vascular Quality Initiative

J Vasc Surg. 2022 Mar;75(3):884-892.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2021.09.049. Epub 2021 Oct 22.


Objective: Although efforts such as the Screening Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms Very Efficiently (SAAAVE) Act have improved access to abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening, certain high-risk populations are currently excluded from the guidelines yet may benefit from screening. We therefore examined all patients who underwent repair of ruptured AAA (rAAA) to characterize those who are ineligible for screening under current guidelines and evaluate the potential impact of these restrictions on their disease.

Methods: We identified patients undergoing rAAA repair in the Vascular Quality Initiative (VQI) database between 2003 and 2019. These patients were stratified by AAA screening eligibility according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement guidelines. We then described baseline characteristics to identify high-risk features of these cohorts. Groups with disproportionate representation in the screening-ineligible cohort were identified as potential targets of screening expansion. Trends over time in screening eligibility and the proportion of AAA repairs performed for rAAA were also analyzed.

Results: A total of 5340 patients underwent rAAA repair. The majority (66%) were screening-ineligible. When characterizing the screening-ineligible group by sex and risk factors (smoking history or family history of AAA), the largest contributors to screening ineligibility were males less than 65 years of age with a smoking history or family history of AAA (25%), males greater than 75 years of age with a smoking history (25%), and females older than 65 years of age with a smoking history (19%). In comparison with rAAAs prior to implementation of the SAAAVE act, the proportion of AAA repair performed for rupture among males undergoing AAA repair in the VQI decreased from 12% to 8% (P < .001), whereas in females, there was no change (P = .990). There was no statically significant difference in screening eligibility for either males (P = .762) or females (P = .335).

Conclusions: Most patients who underwent rAAA repair were ineligible for initial AAA screening or aged out of the screening window. Furthermore, rAAA rates and screening ineligibility have not improved as much as expected since the passage of the SAAAVE Act. Our data suggest that three high-risk populations may benefit from expansion of AAA screening guidelines: males with a smoking history or family history of AAA between ages 55 and 64 years, female smokers older than 65 years, and male smokers older than 75 years who are otherwise in good health. Increased efforts to screen these high-risk populations may increase elective AAA repair and minimize the morbidity and mortality associated with rAAAs.

Keywords: AAA; Aneurysm; Eligibility; Medicare; SAAAVE; Screening; VQI.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Abdominal / surgery*
  • Aortic Rupture / diagnostic imaging
  • Aortic Rupture / surgery*
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Databases, Factual
  • Diagnostic Screening Programs / standards*
  • Eligibility Determination / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome