Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening

All men in Northern Ireland in their 65th year are invited to have screening for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). If you are invited, you are encouraged to attend. It is a simple, free test that could save your life.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm 

The aorta is the main artery that supplies blood to your body. It runs from your heart down through your chest and abdomen (stomach). As some people get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and balloon out to form an aneurysm. This is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Diagnosed with an AAA 

If you have a small AAA, you need to be monitored to see if it grows.

If you have a medium AAA, it could become serious if it continues to grow. It also needs to be monitored. As most AAAs grow very slowly,  men with a small or medium AAA may never develop a large AAA.

A large AAA is very serious. As the wall of the aorta stretches, it becomes weaker, and it could give way and burst. A burst AAA leads to serious internal bleeding, which can cause death.

Risk factors for getting an AAA

Men are six times more likely than women to have an AAA. The risk of developing an AAA also depends on your age and genes. Around one in 65 men in Northern Ireland have an AAA. If you are the close relative of an affected person, you are more likely to get one.

You could increase the risk of having an AAA if you:

  • smoke
  • have high cholesterol
  • have high blood pressure

A man can have an AAA even if they aren't in any of the above categories.

Screening for an AAA

Screening is the most effective way to detect an AAA because you are unlikely to have any symptoms.

AAA screening involves an ultrasound scan of your abdomen. If you are eligible, you will receive an invitation to attend screening.

If you are over 65  and haven't been screened, you can contact the central screening office to ask for an appointment:

  • telephone 028 9063 1828

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