AAA Frequently Asked Questions

How are men invited for screening?

Men in their 65th year who are eligible for screening are sent an invitation letter around three weeks before their appointment. They are given a date, time and venue for their scan and an information leaflet. Invitations are sent from their local screening office at The Royal Stoke hospital containing full details about attending for screening, the test and the possible results. If the time, date or venue is inconvenient men can reschedule their appointment. We try to make the appointment at a venue close to where you live.

Why do we screen?

If you have an aneurysm you will not generally notice any symptoms. This means that you cannot tell if you have one as you will not feel any pain or notice anything different. We offer screening so we can find aneurysms early and monitor or treat them. This greatly reduces the chances of the aneurysm causing serious problems. The easiest way to find out if you have an aneurysm is to have an ultrasound scan of your abdomen.

Who do we screen?

If you are a man aged over 65 you are more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. That is why the NHS AAA screening programme invites men for screening during the year they turn 65.
Men over 65 who have not previously been diagnosed with an aneurysm can request a scan by contacting their local programme directly.

What about men over 65?

Men only need one scan during the year in which they turn 65 to screen for AAA. Men who receive a normal result do not need follow-up scans. Men over 65 who have not previously been screened or diagnosed with an aneurysm can self refer directly to the programme by contacting us on 01782 674356 or at screening.aaa@nhs.net

What about men under 65?

The programme targets men aged 65 and over because 95 per cent of ruptured AAA occur in this group. There is no evidence to show that inviting men who are younger than 65 for screening as part of a population-based screening programme would deliver major benefits.

Why aren't women screened?

The programme targets men aged 65 and over because 95 per cent of ruptured AAA occur in this group. Men are six times more likely to have an aneurysm than women. Ruptured AAA is less common in women and on average occurs ten years later than in men. Women who have a close relative - brother, sister or parent - who has, or has had, an abdominal aortic aneurysm can be scanned at an appropriate age under existing NHS procedures and should speak to their GP to discuss a referral.

Where do you screen?

The whole of the UK is now able to offer AAA screening. Your local program​is the Staffordshire & south Cheshire programme and covers the areas below:

North Staffordshire i​​ncluding:                        

  • Stoke
  • Longton
  • Fenton
  • Cobridge
  • Biddulph
  • Leek
  • Cheadle
  • Kidsgrove
  • Audley
  • Ashley
  • Madeley
  • Bentilee
  • Hanley
  • Tunstall
  • Newcastle
  • Talke
  • Waterhouses

 

South Staffordshire including:

  • Stone
  • Stafford
  • Rugeley
  • Cannock
  • Brewood
  • Codsall
  • Kinver
  • Wombourne
  • Hednesford
  • Norton canes
  • Eccleshall

 

South Cheshire including:

  • Northwich
  • Winsford
  • Nantwich
  • Crewe
  • Alsager
  • Sandbach
  • Audlem
  • Middlewich​


What if I live outside England?

The UK National Screening Committee makes UK-wide policies on screening. However, it is up to each part of the UK to determine when, and how, to put those policies into practice. This means there are some differences in the screening services available depending on whether you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Visit the UK National Screening Committee website for more information.

How many lives will the programme save?

It is estimated that the programme will reduce the death rate from ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms among men aged 65 and over by up to 50 per cent. 

How common is the condition?

It is estimated that around 1 in 70 men in England aged between 65 and 74 have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Most of these are small and not serious. However, a small AAA (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm) can increase in size and develop into a large AAA which is a serious condition.

What is the chance of dying from a rupture AAA?

If an AAA ruptures it is a surgical emergency as it can lead to serious blood loss. The death rate after rupture is about 80 per cent because many patients die before they reach hospital. The aim of the screening programme is to detect and treat large AAA early in order to reduce the number of deaths from rupture.

How reliable is the scan?

The scan used to find aneurysms is very reliable. No screening test can be completely effective, but it is very rare for a man who has had a normal result to develop a large aneurysm. Sometimes the person carrying out the scan will not be able to see the aorta clearly. This is nothing to worry about and they will ask you to have another scan, usually on a different day.

What if my family has a history of AAA?

The risk of developing an AAA increases through close family history. Both men and women who have a close relative - brother, sister or parent - who has, or has had, an AAA can receive an ultrasound scan at an appropriate age under existing NHS procedures and should speak to their GP to discuss a referral. First degree relatives of men with an AAA are advised to consider requesting a scan at an age five years younger than their relative was diagnosed. Close relatives of men with an AAA should take the usual health precautions of not smoking, having a cholesterol and blood pressure check and staying healthy.

What test is used to screen for AAA?

An ultrasound scan of the abdomen is used to look for an AAA - this is similar to the scan used in pregnancy to check how a baby is developing. The test is simple, quick and painless. The test is carried out by a sonographer or specially trained screening technician. 

What happens if the aorta cannot be seen?

Occasionally the screening technician cannot see the aorta or measure it accurately. This is nothing to worry about and the man is invited for a further scan.

What if I do not want to be screened?

Attending for AAA screening is a choice and there is no obligation to attend. If a man has considered the test and decided he does not wish to be screened he can contact us and ask to be removed from the list. 

What are the chances of having an aneurysm identified by screening?

It is estimated that for every 1000 men screened by the NHS AAA Screening Programme, fifteen will have an aneurysm, but only one will have a large aneurysm that may require treatment.