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Patient Participation Group

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Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)


This is a message to all those who are male and aged about 67 and upwards.

Have you ever heard of AAA?

This is something that I had heard about from a friend because his my mother-in-law died from it. However, it is more common in men, and starts to have an impact from about the age of 65. The abdominal aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body and is usually around 2cm wide – roughly the width of a garden hose. However, it can swell to over 5.5cm – what doctors’ class as a large AAA. This swelling is like a balloon, and the major problem is if it bursts. You probably have a matter of 3 hours at most before it is fatal. That was about the time in the lady’s case. She felt fine, then at lunchtime she started to feel a little unwell. As a precaution she was taken to A&E and by 4pm she had died.

A ruptured AAA accounts for some 6,000 deaths per year in England and Wales. That is why the NHS now provides a scan test for all men as they reach the age of 65. They introduced it some three years ago, and now everyone should get an invitation for the test just before their 65th birthday. The problem is they did not go back to those who were already over 65.

You can simply call a number and book yourself in, and have it done somewhere near you. The test takes 10 minutes. It is an ultrasonic scan, a bit like women have, to see the unborn child in the womb (the same cold gel and ultrasonic head). From this they can tell if your Aorta is beginning to enlarge, or whether it is already large. In the latter case, you can have treatment, or in the case of someone where it is starting to enlarge, then you go for further scans in the future to see if it is getting worse. The best outcome is if there is no sign of any problem, the aneurism is not enlarged and you won’t need further scans. In this case you will die of something else!

If you would like to find out more, then visit the NHS Choices website.


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