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Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening is a way of checking if there’s a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from your heart down through your through your chest and abdomen.

This bulge or swelling is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA. It can be serious if it’s not spotted early on because it could get bigger and eventually burst (rupture).

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) occurs when the walls of the aorta weaken and expand. As the wall of the aorta stretches, it becomes weaker and can rupture, causing internal bleeding. Around 85 out of 100 people die when an aneurysm bursts. Men are six times more likely to have an aneurysm than women.

If you have an AAA, you will not usually notice any symptoms or be aware you have one. Screening finds aneurysms early so we can monitor or treat them.

Patients with a small aneurysm (3cm – 4.4cm wide) are screened annually; those with a medium aneurysm (4.5 – 5.4cm wide) are screened every three months.

Those with an aneurysm 5.5cm or bigger (only 1 in 1,000 men have a large aneurysm) have an appointment with a specialist team to discuss treatment (usually an operation).

The screening programme has been set up with the aim to reduce the number of deaths caused by AAA by up to 50 percent.

Our screeners travel to GP surgeries and community hospitals and screen men in their 65th year, using a simple, painless ultrasound scan. One in 70 men scanned is found to have an AAA.

Risk factors for this condition include smokinghigh blood pressure or close family history.

Who’s screened for AAA

In England, screening for AAA is offered to men during the year they turn 65.

Men aged 65 or over are most at risk of AAAs. Screening can help spot a swelling in the aorta early on when it can be treated.

Screening for AAA isn’t routinely offered to:

  • women
  • men under 65
  • people who’ve already been treated for an AAA

This is because the risk of an AAA is much smaller in these groups.

You can ask for a scan to check for an AAA if you think you might need one but haven’t been offered a screening test.