Simple scan could save lives

A SIMPLE scan aimed at detecting a condition which affects one in 20 men is now being rolled out by NHS Tayside and NHS Fife.

As part of a national screening programme, men aged 65 will be invited to attend a local clinic to receive an ultrasound scan which can detect Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA) – a condition that affects the aorta, the main artery that runs from the heart down through the chest and abdomen.

With age, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and balloon out, forming an aneurysm. This is most common in men aged 65 and over and it is estimated that one in 20 men aged 65 in Scotland have an AAA. Most are unaware that they have the condition and will have no symptoms. For many men the rupture of the aneurysm is the very first sign of the problem.

Ruptures can result in death, with around eight in 10 ruptures proving fatal. Exactly what causes AAA is unclear although high cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure can add to the risk of developing an aneurysm.

Men over 65 can self refer. The AAA ultrasound is quick and simple and similar to that used routinely to monitor pregnant women and results will be given to patients immediately. If a large aneurysm is present, the patient can be offered an operation to treat it before it has a chance to rupture and where a smaller aneurysm is detected, follow-up scans will be offered and advice given on lifestyle changes to improve the health of the patient’s blood vessels.

Dr Julie Cavanagh, NHS Tayside consultant in public health medicine, said: “I would hope that every man who receives an invitation for AAA screening will use the information provided to come to a decision about taking up this screening invitation.

“Screening for AAA is important as you are unlikely to have symptoms, feel any pain or notice anything different and so may not be aware that there is a potential problem.

“Screening ensures that we find aneurysms early and monitor or treat them. This greatly reduces the chance of the aneurysm rupturing and causing serious problems.”

Further information is available from the NHS Inform helpline on 0800 22 44 88 or by visiting the Screening Scotland website at