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About AAA screening

The Wales Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Programme was implemented on 1 May 2013 and will offer abdominal aortic aneurysm screening to 65 year old men living in Wales.

Men over 65 who have not previously been screened by the NHS or diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) can self refer directly to the Wales AAA Screening Programme.

The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. Sometimes the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and stretch to form an aneurysm. When this happens, there is a risk that the aorta may split or tear (rupture).
A ruptured AAA can lead to serious blood loss that will need immediate emergency treatment.
Not every AAA will rupture, but if it does the chances of getting to hospital and surviving surgery are very poor. It is estimated, that around 85 per cent of people with a ruptured aneurysm will die, and that many of these will die before reaching a hospital. Even for those who reach hospital alive, around 30-75% of people with ruptured aortic aneurysm will die as a result.
Diagram to show an abdominal aorta and an aorta with an aneurysm:



The Test

The test is an abdominal ultrasound scan.

The screener is the trained person who will check your personal details when you arrive, ask for your consent (permission) and carry out your ultrasound scan.
An ultrasound machine uses sound waves to create an image on a computer screen.
The screener will explain what will happen during the scan. You will not need to undress.

The screener will ask you to lie on your back and to lift up your shirt or top so that they can see your abdomen. The screener will put some clear gel on your abdomen and pass an ultrasound probe over your abdomen.

So that the screener can get a clear image of the abdominal aorta, they may need to apply some pressure when using the probe.

An image of the aorta is displayed on a monitor. The screener will measure the size of the aorta to see if an AAA is present.

The Results

The screener will give you your results following your scan.

No aneurysm found result (measuring less than 3 cm)
This means your abdominal aorta is not enlarged – there is no AAA. You don’t need treatment or monitoring. We will not call you back for AAA screening again.
Small to medium AAA
If your abdominal aorta is between 3 and 4.4 cm wide you have a small AAA.  If your abdominal aorta is between 4.5 and 5.4 cm wide, you have a medium AAA.  We will invite you to have regular ultrasound scans to check the size of your AAA. How often you will need a scan will depend on the size of your AAA. You may also need medication, which will be prescribed by your GP.
Large AAA
If your abdominal aorta is 5.5 cm wide or bigger you have a large AAA. We will refer you to a specialist team at a hospital who will carry out more tests and talk with you about your options for treatment.

Treatment may include having an operation. For a small number of men, an operation will not be possible.

Some AAA operations carry significant risks but the chances of recovery are much better if the operation is planned.
Following your visit with the specialist team they will tell you whether you need to tell the DVLA (Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency) or not.

If you have any size AAA and are planning a holiday you should tell your travel insurance provider.
In very rare cases the screener may not be able to measure your abdominal aorta and we will offer you further scans. This is nothing for you to worry about. This may happen for a number of reasons and the screener will explain this to you during the screening appointment.