Wandsworth men may be putting their lives at risk by failing to attend life-saving screening clinics at St George’s Hospital.  As part of a national programme to cut deaths from abdominal aortic aneurisms (AAAs), men aged over 65 in Wandsworth were among the first in the country invited for free screening which began at the Trust in June this year. During August and September over 50 percent of those invited failed to attend the clinic.

An estimated 80,000 men in the UK 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 kills around 6,000 men every year.

Mr Ian Loftus, Lead for the NHS AAA Screening Programme for St George’s and southwest London, said: “The screening programme aims to reduce deaths from the condition by up to 50 percent by detecting AAAs early and enabling monitoring or treatment to be offered. We’ve been inviting all men in the borough who turn 65 this year to a free appointment but have seen low attendance levels – in September 60 percent of those invited failed to attend.

“Men who are suffering from this condition will not generally notice any symptoms, which is why screening is so important. AAA is a killer but awareness is low and the message just isn’t getting out there. The test at St George’s is simple, pain-free and usually takes less than ten minutes. Catching the condition early really improves a patient’s prospects for a good recovery.”

Men aged 65 and over are most at risk from the condition and invitations for screening are therefore being sent out to men in Wandsworth who turn 65 during 2009. Men not automatically invited for screening can arrange an appointment by calling the unit on 020 8266 6261. For more information on AAA visit the National AAA Screening Programme website, http://aaa.screening.nhs.uk.