ABC of Vascular Disease
Aortic Aneurysm Screening
1. What is screening?
Screening is a method of detecting potentially life threatening health
problems before they become serious so that they can be treated early and
complications prevented. There are many types of screening, many of which
are for cancer (e.g. breast cancer and cervical cancer in women) but any serious
illness may benefit from screening.
2. Why screen for aortic aneurysms?
Aortic aneurysms are quite common and usually do not cause any symptoms until
they leak (Aortic Aneurysm). If an aortic
aneurysm is allowed to leak the chance of the person surviving is around 1 in
10. If the aneurysm is detected before it leaks it can be repaired and,
although this is a major operation, the chance of survival is nearer 19 out of
20 .... much better odds! The likelihood that an aortic aneurysm will leak
is related to its size: an aneurysm greater than 5.5 cm should be considered for
3. Who should be screened?
Aortic aneurysms are much more common in elderly men and it is this group who
stand to benefit most from aortic screening. The current recommendation is
that all men at 65 years of age would benefit from screening.
4. How is the screening done?
A simple, quick and painless examination of the tummy using an ultrasound
machine is all that is needed. The ultrasound machine can "see"
the aorta and measure how wide it is. What is done after the first examination
depends on how big the aorta is
5. What if I don't want screening?
Everyone is free to decline screening and if you change your mind later then
it won't affect your treatment. If you do have an aneurysm it may be
picked up in time to be treated. If the aneurysm leaks then an emergency
operation would be needed. Of course, people can get ill from other
6. Where can I go to get screened?
Some places have screening programs set up already and if so you will be
invited automatically to attend. If not then you just need to ask you GP
to arrange a screening ultrasound examination at your local hospital.