Abdominal aortic aneurysm (or AAA) screening is a way of checking and identifying if there is a bulge, swelling or aneurysm of the main blood vessel (the aorta) that runs from your heart down through your tummy.
This bulge or swelling is an AAA and can be serious (even fatal) if it’s not spotted early on, which the screening can do. If you have an undetected AAA it could burst and cause life-threatening bleeding inside your tummy – about eight in every ten people who have a burst AAA die before they get to hospital or don’t survive surgery to repair it. If an AAA is detected you can choose to have regular monitoring scans or surgery to stop it bursting.
AAA screening is offered to men in the year they turn 65 as men over this age are at the highest risk of an AAA. Screening is not routinely offered to women, men under 65 or people who have previously been treated for an AAA because of the reduced risk amongst these groups. However, you can ask for a scan if you think you might need one. If you are registered with a GP, you’ll get a screening invitation from the local screening centre in the post either when you’re 64 or soon after your 65th birthday. If you haven’t received an invite or have not previously been screened and you are a man over 65, you can contact your local AAA screening service directly, details of which can be found through this link. Men or women under 65, who feel they may be at a higher risk of an AAA (perhaps because a close relative has had one), are advised to speak to their GP about the possibility of having a scan. If the GP feels it would be of benefit, this is usually done when you’re five years younger than the age at which your relative was found to have an AAA.
The screening test itself is quick, painless, non-invasive and reliable with research suggesting it can halve the risk of dying from an AAA. The test will be done by a specially trained screener who works within the NHS AAA Screening Programme.
Further information about AAA screening in general, deciding on whether or not to be screened, what happens during the screening process and the results, can be found through the following resources: