Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening rollout in Wales

Image caption Aneurysms are the abnormal enlargement of the abdominal aorta blood vessel

A £1.6m screening programme is to be rolled out in Wales which could help save the lives of men at risk from a potentially fatal condition.

Men aged 65 will be offered a scan for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Four in 100 men in Wales have AAA and it is hoped the number of men dying from the condition could be cut by 50%.

The condition occurs as an aneurysm forms in the aorta, the main blood vessel, due to a weakening of the vessel walls as people age.

The Wales Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Programme is a partnership between the seven health boards, Public Health Wales and Welsh government, who are all contributing to the £1.6m development.

The programme will be run by Public Health Wales and screening is planned to start in 2013.

Once screening starts, men aged 65 living in Wales will be invited for a one-off ultrasound test to check whether they have the condition, and those at risk could be referred for surgery.

Bob Hudson, chief executive of Public Health Wales, said: "The introduction of this screening programme is great news for Wales, and could reduce the number of men dying of abdominal aortic aneurysms in Wales by up to 50%.

"Although few people will have heard of AAA, this is potentially a very serious condition that has a high death rate for those who suffer a ruptured aneurysm.

"By offering screening to men aged 65 years in Wales, we can identify aneurysms that are at risk of rupture and provide a much greater chance of recovery for the estimated six in every thousand men in Wales who will have a large aneurysm.

'High blood pressure'

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said she hoped men in Wales would take advantage of the health check.

Doireeann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation said: "Abdominal aortic aneurysms are most common in men, people with high blood pressure, and those over the age of 65.

"There are often no symptoms so we welcome this new screening programme which will help in the early detection of this condition.

"Although the screening programme is for men over the age of 65, anyone with a family history of these aneurysms is encouraged to speak to their GP for advice."

A similar screening programme will be available in Scotland next year.

In England, screening has happened in a limited number of areas for a few years, but it will be rolled out across the country next year.

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