Life saving screening programme launches on mobile unit

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NHS Western Isles is set to launch the national Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Programme on International Men’s Day (November 19)th.

NHS Western Isles is one of the first Health Boards in Scotland to launch the programme.

AAAs arise when the wall of the aorta – the main artery in our abdomen that supplies blood to our bodies – becomes weak and balloons out to form an aneurysm, which is a swelling and weakening of the wall of the aorta.

Most men will be unaware that they have an aneurysm as these rarely cause any pain; however a burst aneurysm leads to life threatening bleeding and can result in death.

The AAA Screening Programme aims to find aneurysms before they burst, so that people can be offered treatment to prevent this.

What will be unique about the service that will be offered in the Western Isles is that screening will take place across the Isles on a mobile unit, rather than just in GP surgeries or hospitals. This will make appointments more accessible, with appointments arranged in people’s own communities.

The AAA Screening Programme is being rolled out across the country in a phased fashion. NHS Highland, which was the first Health Board to launch the programme in June 2012, administers the system for NHS Western Isles, so the two Health Boards have worked in collaboration to set up the system in the Highlands and Islands.

Men aged 65 years will be invited to take part in AAA screening through having an ultrasound scan of their abdomen. Men aged 66 years and over can self-refer.

Most men will be told that they do not have an aneurysm and they will not require any further scans as it is very unlikely they will ever develop an aneurysm requiring treatment.

Men who are found to have small or medium sized aneurysms will be invited to have yearly or three-monthly ultrasound scans to monitor its size.

Large aneurisms are not common, but can very serious and may require surgery.

Most aneurysms grow very slowly and some men with small or medium sized aneurysms will never need treatment; however it is important that they are regularly checked.

Steve Wilson, a Radiographer, one of the team from the Radiology Department, who delivers the programme in the Western Isles, commented: “We have tested the programme and at our last clinic in Western Isles Hospital there was 100% attendance, which was an excellent turnout. This demonstrates that those who are being invited for appointments understand how important it is that they are screened.”