Aortic aneurysm screening

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (or AAA) is a swelling of the abdominal aorta in the back of the abdomen below the kidneys. It is remarkably common; 1 in 20 men over the age of 60 has some enlargement of the aorta.

Aortic aneurysm are described in detail HERE.

Why screen for AAA?
AAAs usually cause no symptoms, but gradually grow until they eventually burst. Rupture of an aortic aneurysm is usually fatal and it is a common cause of death in the UK. If detected before rupture, an aneurysm can be repaired, either by endovascular (keyhole) or open surgery.

It is easy to screen for aortic aneurysms, and screening has been proved to reduce deaths from aneurysm rupture. Screening programs are available in parts of the UK but there is at present no nationwide screening.

What is Aortic aneurysm screening?

How is AAA screening performed?

It is easy to diagnose an AAA. Ultrasound scanning is quick, painless and highly accurate.  It is performed by passing a probe over the abdomen lubricated by jelly, and takes less than 10 minutes. 

 

What happens after screening?

If an aneurysm is detected, what happens next depends on the size of the aneurysm. Aortic aneurysms smaller than 5.5 cm in diameter can usually be left alone and simply measured at regular intervals using ultrasound. Once the aneurysm reaches 5.5 cm (or around 5 cm in females) more detailed tests are performed to determine the most suitable technique for repair.

 

What else should be considered if an aneurysm is detected?

If an AAA is detected, regardless of size, there are other important factors to consider.

First, it is advisable to stop smoking, as this increases the rate of aneurysm growth and risk of bursting.

Second, many patients with aneurysms also have coronary artery disease, and this should be considered and treated if required.

Third, around 20% of patients with aortic aneursyms also have a popliteal aneurysm (swelling of the popliteal artery behind the knee) so this should be checked for and treated appropriately.

Finally, aneurysms run in families, so brothers and sisters of any individual with an aneurysm should also be screened.

Are there any risks I should be aware of?

There are no risks associated with Aortic aneurysm screening

What is it used for?

What should I do next?

For more details about AAA screening or to make an appointment, contact The London Vascular Clinic.

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