Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm in asymptomatic at-risk patients using emergency ultrasound

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Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a deadly but often clinically silent disease. Patients at increased risk are elderly men with risk factors for vascular disease who may not have adequate screening through primary care. We sought to examine the prevalence and feasibility of screening for AAA in at-risk patients presenting for unrelated complaints using emergency physician-performed bedside ultrasound.


At-risk patients presenting with unrelated complaints were screened for AAA by emergency physician-performed ultrasound. Scan was rated as complete, limited, or inadequate, and time to complete scan noted. Patients with identified AAA were provided with appropriate follow-up and were followed to look at confirmatory imaging and clinical course.


A total of 179 patients were screened, with 12 AAAs discovered (6.7%; 95% confidence interval, 3.9%-11.4%). Average time to perform the screening ultrasound was 141 ± 135 seconds. Average discrepancy between emergency ultrasound and formal imaging was 3.9 mm. Of 12 (92%) patients, 11 were followed up, with repair recommended in 3 patients.


The emergency department represents a potential opportunity for screening at-risk patients for AAA. Emergency ultrasound is a fast and accurate method for identifying patients with AAA who may benefit from follow-up or intervention.

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