Meta-analysis of individual patient data to examine factors affecting growth and rupture of small abdominal aortic aneurysms

M. J. Sweeting, S. G. Thompson, L. C. Brown, J. T. Powell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Surveillance is a common management strategy for small abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) (3.0-5.4 cm in diameter). Individual characteristics, other than diameter, may influence aneurysm growth or rupture rates. Methods: Individual data were collated from 15 475 people under follow-up for a small aneurysm in 18 studies. The influence of co-variables (including demographics, medical and drug history) on aneurysm growth and rupture rates (analysed using longitudinal random-effects modelling and survival analysis with adjustment for aneurysm diameter) were summarized in an individual patient meta-analysis. Results: The mean aneurysm growth rate of 2.21 mm/year was independent of age and sex. Growth rate was increased in smokers (by 0.35 mm/year) and decreased in patients with diabetes (by 0.51 mm/year). Mean arterial pressure had no effect and antihypertensive or other cardioprotective medications had only small, non-significant effects on aneurysm growth, consistent with the observation that calendar year of enrolment was not associated with growth rate. Rupture rates were almost fourfold higher in women than men (P < 0.001), were double in current smokers (P = 0.001) and increased with higher blood pressure (P = 0.001). Conclusion: Follow-up schedules for individuals with a small AAA may need to consider diabetes and smoking, in addition to aneurysm diameter. The differing risk factors for growth and rupture suggest that a lower threshold for surgical intervention in women may be justified. No single drug used for cardiovascular risk reduction had a major effect on the growth or rupture of small aneurysms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-665
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


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