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AAA screening can save lives - Poots

Health Minister Edwin Poots has said that Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening can save lives
Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Minister’s comments come as a Westminster Parliamentary Reception took place to celebrate the completion of the national implementation of the NHS AAA Screening Programme in England and the Northern Ireland AAA Screening Programme.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a widening of the main artery in the body. Most people will be unaware that they have an aneurysm as they rarely cause symptoms, but the aneurysm can be life-threatening if it ruptures. It is most common in men aged over 65, smokers, people with high blood pressure and people with other cardiovascular diseases.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “Men are six times more likely to have this type of aneurysm than women and the chance of having an aneurysm increases with age. If an aneurysm is detected early, it can be monitored and, if necessary, treated. Research shows that screening men aged 65, using an ultrasound scan, will reduce the death rate from ruptured AAAs by around 50 per cent."

The Northern Ireland AAA Screening Programme was introduced in June 2012, to reduce AAA-related mortality by providing a systematic population-based screening programme for men in the year they turn 65 and, on request, for men over 65. There are 18 different screening locations throughout Northern Ireland.

The Minister continued: “It is extremely encouraging to see that, since the introduction of the screening programme, over 7,500 men have benefited and 111 AAAs have been detected. This represents an uptake rate of 82 per cent.

“I encourage all men who receive an appointment for AAA screening to seriously consider taking up the offer for this vital health check."

Dr Adrian Mairs, Consultant in Public Health and Public Health Lead for the Northern Ireland AAA Screening Programme, attended the Reception. He said: “Each year around 90 people in Northern Ireland die from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. The Northern Ireland AAA Screening Programme was introduced aiming to halve the number of AAA-related deaths.

“To date we have had excellent uptake rates, with 82% of those invited to be screened taking up the offer and a number of lives potentially saved. However, we cannot afford to be complacent; I would like to see all men attending when invited and will continue to work with colleagues within the HSC system to increase the uptake rate within Northern Ireland.

“I was delighted to attend the Parliamentary reception to celebrate the successful rollout of the NHS AAA Screening Programme in England and the Northern Ireland AAA Screening Programme. The event provided an opportunity to engage with colleagues from other screening programmes, to share experiences and to consider actions needed to further develop the success of the programme. Dr Mairs concluded.

Notes to editors:

1. The reception took place on Monday 17 June and was hosted by Sir Peter Bottomley, in his capacity as Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Vascular Disease.

2. An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a widening of the main artery in the body, as it passes through the abdomen. The walls of the artery weaken, causing it to balloon out. It is more common in older men, smokers, people with high blood pressure and people with other cardiovascular diseases. If the aneurysm ruptures, this leads to life-threatening internal bleeding, and death in eight out of ten cases.

3. Media queries about this press release should be directed to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0074. Out of office hours, contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699745440 and your call will be returned.

4. More information on AAA screening can be found on the nidirect website.