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Ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms in general practice is feasible and cuts the rate of ruptures, new research finds.

The study leaders said the case for national screening was now 'overwhelming'.

The Government's national screening committee is set to make a decision by the end of this year on screening men aged 65 and over.

The prospective study of 2,400 men aged 60 to 80 in Maidstone, Kent, found screening and subsequent treatment reduced the incidence of aneurysm rupture by 33 per cent among the group aged 65 to 75.

A population-based sample of men from 11 practices was offered ultrasound screening at the practice by a vascular specialist nurse using a portable scanner.

Some 3.4 per cent of screened patients were found to have an aneurysm. Those with a small aneurysm (3- 4.9cm diameter) were entered into a surveillance scheme. Those with an aneurysm of 5cm diameter or larger were considered for surgical repair.

The authors said the high attendance rate confirmed screening in primary care was acceptable to patients. Researcher Helen Stannett, a vascular nurse specialist at Maidstone Hospital, said: 'When we enter patients into a surveillance programme the survival rate is 95 per cent.'

Results were published in International Angiology (June).

Dr Muir Gray, director of the national screening committee, said: 'We are looking at the practicability of putting this in ordinary services.'

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