Incidental abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) are identified when the abdomen is imaged for other reasons. These are common, and many undergo incomplete radiological monitoring. The association between monitoring completeness and population-based outcomes has not been studied.
A cohort of incidental AAAs (defined as previously unidentified aortic enlargement exceeding 3 cm found on an imaging study done for another reason) was linked to population-based data. Patients were followed to elective AAA repair, AAA rupture, death, or March 31, 2009. Monitoring completeness was gauged as the sequential number of months without a recommended abdominal scan. Its association with time to elective AAA repair and time to death was measured using a multivariable Cox regression model adjusting for other important covariates.
We identified 191 incidental AAAs between 1996 and 2004 (median diameter of 3.5 cm [range, 3.0-5.3 cm], median follow up of 4.4 years [range, 0.6-12.7 years]). During the study, patients spent a median of 19.4% of their time with incomplete AAA monitoring (interquartile range [IQR] 0.3%-44%); 56 patients (29.3%) had no follow-up imaging of their aneurysm. Nineteen patients (10.0%; 2.0% per year) underwent elective AAA repair, and 79 patients (37.7%; 7.6% per year) died. Independent of important covariates, people were significantly less likely to undergo elective repair (hazard ratio [HR], 0.03) and significantly more likely to die (HR, 2.99) if their AAA went without radiological monitoring for 1 year.
Incomplete incidental AAA radiological monitoring was significantly associated with a decreased risk of elective AAA repair and an increased risk of death. While uncontrolled confounding might explain part of these associations, clinicians should ensure that radiological monitoring of AAAs is complete in appropriate patients.