A new method to predict the growth in abdominal aortic aneurysms

Predicting the future rate of abdominal aortic aneurysm growth is a particularly useful tool in guiding the management of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Slow growing aneurysms will require less frequent monitoring, whereas as fast-growing aneurysms would benefit from early intervention. Currently, the threshold for AAA repair is defined by the size of the AAA and not the biological behaviour of the AAA within the affected individual.

The ability to predict the rate at which an aneurysm will progress will enable us to stratify the clinical need in terms of monitoring and intervention.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have devised a method for predicting the rate of growth of abdominal aortic aneurysms in humans using the pulsation characteristics of an artery during ultrasound imaging, such as the brachial artery of the arm.

What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Abnormal expansion of the aorta as it passes through the abdomen is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). When an AAA continues to expand, there is an increased risk of it bursting and this can lead to internal bleeding and in many cases, death. Ruptured AAAs kill approximately 200,000 people in the world each year, and of these 6000 are in the UK.

To prevent AAA ruptures, AAA screening programs have been implemented in the UK, Sweden, Australia, and Germany – with other countries to follow. AAA’s can be treated by surgery but usually, this only occurs when an aneurysm reaches a certain size (>5.5cm).

In the NHS alone, more than 100,000 ultrasound scans are performed each year for AAA surveillance. However, it has been shown that aneurysm size alone may not be an absolute predictor of the risk of rupture rather than the growth rate may be a better indicator of when intervention is required. A method that is better at predicting AAA growth would give more clinically relevant information and reduce the number of scans required.

Overcoming challenges

In a recent international survey of vascular surgeons, developing novel methods for the prediction of AAA growth was voted as the top priority for research in AAA. There is, therefore, a demand for a non-invasive method for the prediction of aneurysm growth.

Researchers from Medical Sciences and Engineering Science at the University of Oxford have devised a method for predicting the rate of growth of abdominal aortic aneurysms in humans using the pulsation characteristics of an artery during ultrasound imaging, such as the brachial artery of the arm.

Commercialisation

Oxford University Innovation has filed a priority patent application on the technology and welcomes discussions with companies interested in licensing it for commercial development.

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