Thousands skipping screening that could save their lives

There’s a condition that can kill in minutes and has no symptoms, yet one in five men aged over 65

There’s a condition that can kill in minutes and has no symptoms, yet one in five men aged over 65 year are putting themselves at risk.

According to research up to 80 per cent of patients with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) will die before they reach a hospital, and the Australian and New Zealand Society for Vascular Surgery says of the survivors only about one half of those will reach an operating theatre with 40 per cent of those having surgery surviving to 30 days.

It might be an incredibly rare condition, but the consequences are often fatal.

AAA is the dilatation of the major artery (aorta) within your abdomen. What makes this condition fatal is when the artery bursts because it causes a huge amount of internal bleeding.

While there are usually no warning signs — that is until it happens — a simple 10-minute ultrasound scan of the abdomen can look for swelling in the blood vessel, the main indicator of an aneurysm.

In the United Kingdom there is a free NHS screening, however latest figures show at least 20 per cent of men don’t take up the offer.

While there is no formal screening guideline in Australia, men over the age of 65 who do get screened are shown to reduce aneurysm-related mortality.

If you smoke, have high blood pressure or other vascular disease such as cardiac or peripheral vascular disease, you are at an increased risk of aneurysms. If another family member has had an aneurysm, your chances of having one also go up. It affects between 4 and 7 per cent of men, while women only have a 1 to 2 per cent likelihood of developing the condition.

An AAA is diagnosed when the abdominal aorta has swollen from its normal diameter of around 3cm to 5.5cm or more.

Have you ever heard of abdominal aortic aneurysm before? Should there be a formal screening test in Australia given the condition is so serious?