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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening (AAA)

The Aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body. It runs from your heart down through your chest and your abdomen. In some people, as they get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak. It then starts to expand and form an AAA.

Large aneurysms are rare but can be very serious. As the wall of the aorta stretches it becomes weaker and can burst, causing internal bleeding, around 85 out of 100 people die when an aneurysm bursts. An aorta which is only slightly enlarged is not dangerous. However, if the aorta measures between 3.0cm and 5.4cm it is important to have regular checks.

The NHS invites all men for screening in the year they turn 65. Men are 6 Times more likely to have an AAA than women, which is why women are not offered screening. The chance of having an aneurysm increases with age. Your chance of having an AAA can also increase if:

  • You are or have ever been a smoker.

  • You have high blood pressure.

  • Your brother, sister or parent has, or has had, an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Men aged over 65 who have not been screened before contact your local GP for a test.

A simple ultrasound scan is used for this test it is very quick painless and usually takes less than 10 minutes.

Possible screening results:

  1. If your aorta is less than 3cm wide you do not have an aneurysm no treatment or monitoring is required afterwards.

  2. If your aorta is between 3cm and 4.4cm wide you have a small aneurysm. You will be invited back for scans every 12 months to see if it is getting bigger.

  3. If you aorta is between 4.5cm and 5.4cm wide, you have a medium aneurysm. You will be invited back every 3 months for further scans to check if it is getting bigger.

  4. If your aorta is 5.5cm wide or bigger, you have a large aneurysm. About 1 in 1000 men who are screened have a large aneurysm and will have to have an appointment with a specialist team to have more scans and talk about further treatment, this is usually an operation and will be arranged within a few weeks although, not every large aneurysm will require an operation.

The moral of this story is, if you are a Man over 65 who has not been screened before, contact your GP and arrange a test.

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