AAA Research


The main focus of our research in Leicester is in the management of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAAs). Our current research encompasses a wide range of projects from laboratory research into the genetic links behind AAA to research with patients exploring new treatments to make surgery safer. A few of these are described below.


Improving the way we find AAA and manage AAA

People with AAA are cared for by a wide variety of healthcare practitioners. The NHS AAA Screening Programme invites all men to have an ultrasound scan to check for an AAA at the age of 65. Any men who are found to have a small (low risk) AAA are monitored by the screening programme to check for any changes in their AAA. If someone has an AAA that is large enough that there is a risk of it causing harm then they will be sent to see a vascular surgeon at a hospital. General practitioners remain responsible for the care of the general health of people diagnosed with AAA. All of these groups record information about the people they see but this information is all kept in different electronic databases.

We have established methods and permission to join together all of these different sources of information. By doing this on a national basis we can piece together what happens to people screened for AAA and what happens to people who are diagnosed with an AAA. By studying the natural history of AAA, the differences between people with and without AAA, and the differences between people with AAAs that grow quickly and those with AAAs that grow slowly, better information can be developed for people diagnosed with AAA and for doctors to use when they discuss treatment options with patients. We can also use this information to help streamline screening programmes. In the future this type of research may even identify which commonly used medications protect people with AAA from future complications and/or improve their overall health.


Finding out why AAA grow

When people are found to have an AAA in screening programmes most of these AAA are small and do not need immediate treatment. The small AAA are monitored over time. Some AAA will expand over time and some will not. In those that do expand some do this quickly whilst others are slow growing. We do not know why some AAA grow, why some grow slowly and some grow rapidly. We are currently collecting information and blood samples from men with small AAA via the UK NHS AAA screening programmes. Using state-of-the art laboratory techniques we will identify the genes that are linked to the way AAA grow.


Making surgery for AAA safer

Unfortunately for many people the only effective way to treat an AAA is to have an operation. In Leicester we were at the forefront of developing keyhole surgery for AAA. We now do research to work out ways to make this type of surgery safer. One of the main complications associated with surgery for AAA is kidney problems. Around a quarter of people having AAA surgery will suffer a temporary deterioration in the performance of their kidneys around the time of surgery. This puts people at risk of other major complications and keeps them in hospital longer. We have recently been researching whether some simple and readily available medications can protect patients against kidney problems and will soon expand this research across the country.



We accept donations to support our research. For information on how to donate and the research that donations support please visit our JustGiving page.


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