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Trial estimated to have saved thousands of lives a year

A trial looking into the implementation of a screening programme for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) is estimated to have helped save just under half of the 6,800 men killed by the illness every year.

A vital part of the Multi-centre Aneurysm Screening Study (MASS) trial was an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the screening programme – undertaken by Brunel’s Health Economics Research Group (HERG) and published in the Lancet in 2002.

The assessment helped inform a policy announced by the Government in 2008 to introduce a national screening programme for all men over the age of 65 years old.

The final report into the effectiveness of the MASS trial in 2012 estimated a 42% reduction in the AAA-related mortality rate by screening men aged 65 to 74 years old. By spring 2013 the programme was fully introduced in England, offering screening to 300,000 men annually.

In 2013/14, the NHS reported that nearly 500 men went on to have potentially life-saving surgery after attending a screening. Nearly 3,700 had aneurysms detected, leading to regular monitoring.

In 2011 the Department of Health recognised the work of HERG in informing the policy research programme, saying: “This has made a significant contribution to strengthening the evidence-base for policymaking through a range of applied economic research.”

Internationally, MASS is the most significant trial of AAA screening and provides the most robust evidence-based model of its cost-effectiveness. HERG’s research has influences AAA screening guidelines and policies across Europe and the USA.