What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening?
The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body. It runs from your heart down through your chest and abdomen. In some people, as they get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak. It can then start to expand and form what is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Is an abdominal aortic aneurysm serious?
As the wall of the aorta stretches it becomes weaker and could give way. If this happens, the person usually dies. An aorta which is only slightly larger than normal is not dangerous. However, it is still important to know about it so that we can monitor the aneurysm to see if it gets bigger.
Why is screening important?
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 is most at risk of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
If you are a man aged over 65 you are more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Men are six times more likely to have this type of aneurysm than women. Your chance of having an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm can also increase if:
- You smoke
- You have high blood pressure
- Your brother, sister or parent has, or has had, an abdominal aortic aneurysm
- How common is the condition?
It is estimated that around 1 in 25 men aged between 65 and 74 in England have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
What will happen when I go for screening?
On arrival to the Imaging Department you may be requested to undress and change into a hospital gown. You will be asked to lie on the examination couch and the lights will be dimmed so that the images may be seen more clearly.
We will put a small amount of jelly on your abdomen. We will then move a small scanner over the skin of your abdomen. The scan does not hurt. You will simply feel gentle pressure around the area of examination. There are no side effects.
The scan will show a picture of the aorta on a screen and we will be able to measure it. We will give you your result straight away and also send a copy of the result to your GP.