Luton men at risk from a silent killer

A consultant surgeon says men in Luton over the age of 65 could be risking their lives by not attending a simple health check.

The test is designed to detect an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

The aorta is the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and stomach. As people get older the walls of the artery can get thinner, resulting in a swelling or aneurysm. If the swelling bursts it can cause severe internal bleeding which is often fatal.

Men are six times more likely to suffer from AAA and the risk increases with age. The NHS runs a free screening programme for all men over 65. But in Luton the take up is below the national average.

Mr Nadim Noor is a consultant vascular surgeon and NHS regional AAA screening programme director. “An abdominal aortic aneurysm does not cause any symptoms and may remain unnoticed until it ruptures. A leaking or burst aneurysm may prove to be fatal,” he said.

“However, a quick and painless scan with an ultrasound machine is all that is required to find it. Such a simple test will quickly identify a condition which can be regarded as a silent killer.”

Treatment for an AAA depends on its size. If the ultrasound scan detects an aneurysm 5.4cm across or smaller, regular scans are recommended to check it’s not getting any bigger. Surgery is usually recommended for an AAA 5.5cm across or larger. Whatever the size of aneurysm, stopping smoking and reducing high blood pressure to normal levels can reduce the risk of it bursting.

“If a large aneurysm is diagnosed it can be treated effectively,” said Mr Noor. “The surgeons at your vascular centre have years of experience in dealing with this condition and are skilled in a variety of the most modern treatment methods – but early detection is crucial for a successful outcome.”

Men 65 years of age and over who want to have a free AAA screening should contact the local AAA screening programme on 01234 792207 or email aaascreening@bedfordhospital.nhs.uk.