St. Louis, June 7, 1999 -- A pilot study suggests that doxycycline, an inexpensive and safe antibiotic, might help patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms, which kill at least 15,000 Americans each year. These aneurysms are weak areas in the wall of the body's main artery. At present, only surgery can prevent them from growing to the size where they rupture and cause sudden death.
"If we had a drug therapy that could inhibit the enlargement of abdominal aortic aneurysms, we could shift the management of this condition to screening and aggressive treatment early on," says Robert W. Thompson, M.D., associate professor of surgery, radiology and cell biology and physiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Thompson and postdoctoral fellow John A. Curci, M.D., present their findings today at the annual meeting of the Society for Vascular Surgery in Washington, D.C.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) develop in 6 percent to 9 percent of people over age 65. Smoking is a major risk factor, and men are three to five times more likely to develop the condition than women. Ninety-five percent of patients with ruptured AAAs die, including 50 percent to 70 percent of those who have emergency surgery. Preventive surgery can save patients whose aneurysms happen to be detected earlier, though it is reserved for defects that have grown to a particularly large size. So a drug treatment that could prevent small aneurysms from enlarging could prevent thousands of operations and deaths each year. "If this approach is successful, it could put us vascular surgeons out of business for this particular problem," Thompson says.
The U.S. Census Bureau projects that 79 million Americans will be 65 or older by 2050 -- up from 35 million in 2000. "So we'd like to have a preventive treatment long before that," Thompson says.
AAAs arise in the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the abdomen.
A weak area in the wall tends to enlarge and
Contact: Linda Sage
Washington University School of Medicine