Our one millionth AAA screening

19 January 2016

Alan Campbell, Head of Screening Services, Northgate Public Service.

The new year started with news that we’d reached an excellent milestone – Northgate Public Services has helped screen the one millionth man for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA). Delivered in partnership with the NHS and Public Health England, the screening is offered to all men registered with a GP during the year they turn 65.

For us, this is a great achievement, the culmination of years of hard work in this life-saving area. But what is an AAA? When the main blood vessel in the body weakens and expands it causes an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Most AAAs have no symptoms and, if they grow and rupture, can ultimately prove fatal. Around 8 out of every 10 people with a ruptured AAA die before they reach hospital or fail to survive emergency surgery. Men are more than three times more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm than woman which is why the screening programme is not offered to women.

The national programme works to detect and treat large aneurysms early and reduce the number of deaths. Well over 10,000 aneurysms have been detected that needed monitoring or treatment since the programme began in 2009. More than 2,000 men with large aneurysms, measuring 5.5cm or larger, have been referred for surgery.

The screening test is relatively quick and simple. An ultrasound scan looks for a weakness and enlargement of the aorta, the main blood vessel in the body, with the results being available straight away.

The bottom line is that AAA screening is saving lives. We’re helping to catch problems early, enabling people to live longer and giving them to time to get more from life. It’s rewarding work, and it joins some other recent achievements for us – such as starting to deliver newborn hearing screening in some areas of England, and screening our 200,000th infant in Ireland for hearing issues, to name just two – that shows how far we’ve come in delivering health services.

If you are a man over 65 who has not been screened, you can self-refer by contacting your local screening programme directly. More information about screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms, including how to find your local screening programme, here on the NHS Choices website