65 year old men in Wandsworth are among the first in the country to benefit from screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms (also known as AAAs) as part of a new national screening programme. St George’s Hospital has introduced the NHS Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Programme and invited men are now being screened.

An estimated 80,000 men aged between 65 and 74 are affected by the condition, which is caused when the main blood vessel in the abdomen – the aorta – weakens and starts to expand. If undetected, the condition can be fatal and around 6,000 men die every year from a burst AAA.

The new NHS AAA Screening Programme will reduce deaths from the condition by up to 50 percent by detecting AAAs early and enabling monitoring or treatment to be offered. Men aged 65 and over are most at risk from the condition and invitations for screening are therefore being sent out to men in the area in the year they turn 65.

Mr Jonothan Earnshaw, Programme Director for the NHS AAA Screening Programme said: “Men who have an abdominal aortic aneurysm will not generally notice any symptoms, which is why screening is so important. The test is simple, pain-free and usually takes less than 10 minutes. Early detection of AAAs through screening enables us to offer monitoring or treatment, reducing the number of deaths caused by the condition.”

Mr Ian Loftus, Lead for the NHS AAA Screening Programme for St George’s and south west London, said: “I am delighted that men aged 65 in Wandsworth are the first to have the opportunity to take part in this screening programme. The screening test is highly effective and men will receive their results immediately.”

More information can be found by visiting the national programme website at: http://aaa.screening.nhs.uk.

For more information on your local screening centre or a background information sheet please call the AAA Screening program for St. George’s and south west London, on 020 8266 6261, or e-mail: aaa.screening@stgeorges.nhs.uk.

For more information on the national NHS AAA Screening Programme please call their press office on 020 7478 7802, or email:aaascreeningprogramme@trimediauk.com.

Notes to editors

  1. St George’s is starting the SW London screening programme in Wandsworth on Friday 19 June. Screening services will be rolled out to patients in Croydon, Kingston, Sutton & Merton and Richmond & Twickenham throughout summer 2009. Screening will begin in Surrey in 2010.
  2. The NHS AAA Screening Programme will set national standards and protocols for the delivery of local screening services and will coordinate the implementation of the programme across England
  3. The programme is being introduced following research evidence showing that a population based screening programme, using ultrasound scanning, for men in their 65th year would be effective in reducing mortality from ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms
  4. There are three possible results from the scan:
    • Most people will have a normal result: this means the aorta is not enlarged and no further treatment or monitoring will be required
    • If a small aneurysm is found it means the aorta is a little wider than normal, and men will be invited back for regular scans to ensure it is not getting bigger
    • If a large aneurysm is found it means the aorta is much wider than normal. Only a very small number of men will have this result. Those who do will be given an appointment with a specialist team to have further scans and to talk about possible treatment.