Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

​​Scope of the Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme

To screen and detect abdominal aortic aneurysms

Clients with abdominal aortic aneurysms are referred for appropriate interventions that can prevent future complications from the aneurysm

To reduce the mortality rate from abdominal aortic aneurysms


A 15 minute test can save your life!


What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)?

The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body and to your legs. It runs from your heart down through your chest and abdomen. In some people, as they get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak. It can then start to expand and form an abdominal aortic aneurysm which is a swelling of the artery. 

The condition is most common in men aged 65 and over.

Is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm serious?

Large abdominal aortic aneurysms can be very serious. If the wall of the aorta gets very weak, it can burst. If this happens, massive internal bleeding occurs, and the person usually dies.

If the aorta is only slightly larger than normal, it is not dangerous. However, it is still important to know about it, so that the aneurysm can be followed up and checked regularly if it is getting bigger.

Why is screening important?

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms usually do not give any symptoms.  An individual will not know that he has an aneurysm before it gives serious complications. Screening detects aneurysms early so they can be monitored to see whether or not they are getting larger.. 

If the aneurysm diagnosed through screening is large, it can be treated by an operation and, therefore, greatly reduce the chances of the aneurysm bursting in the future. The procedure is most often performed through small incisions in the lower abdomen/ groins and involves a 48-hour hospital stay.

Who is most at risk?

Men have 6 times higher risk than women

Smokers

Someone who has high blood pressure

Having a close family member who had an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

What happens during the test?

The test consists of an abdominal Ultrasound Scan, which only takes a few minutes. You will be asked to lie down on the couch and lift or open your shirt. A small amount of gel is put on your abdomen and a probe will be put on your skin to check if the aorta is normal or not. You will receive the result immediately.

What happens after the screening test?

Immediately after the ultrasound, you will be given a result.

  • ​No aneurysm: If the artery is normal, you will be reassured and will not need any future tests.
 
  • ​Small aneurysm: If the artery is between 3 and 5.4 centimetres, you will be referred to the Vascular Team at Mater Dei Hospital for follow up to assess whether the aneurysm is getting bigger with time.
 
  • ​​​Large aneurysm: If the artery is larger than 5.5cm you will be referred to a Vascular Specialist at Mater Dei Hospital to have a discussion on an operation called Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair.

What are the risks of screening?

There is no risk from screening itself. The ultrasound test is perfectly safe and does not use any radiation.

The screening test used is very reliable. No test can be completely effective, but it is very rare for a person who has had a normal result to develop a large aneurysm

Screening for an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm does not completely remove the risk of an aneurysm bursting, but it is the best method for protection against this condition.

54 out of every 10,000 men screened (0.54%) will eventually have surgery to repair a large aneurysm. The Vascular specialist will discuss all options available to you if you need to be referred. Such operations are not without risk; however, the operation will only be done if the risk of the aneurysm bursting becomes bigger than the chance of complications due to the surgery.

For more information

Call the National Screening Centre for more information on 21227470/1 between 8.30am – 2.45pm 

Email: AAA.screening@gov.mt 

Facebook: National Screening Centre

Address: 17, Lascaris Wharf, Valletta, VLT 1921