A programme that aims to spot men at risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture will begin roll out across Scotland.
The programme will provide a one off screen for men aged 65 years of age. In Scotland around five per cent of men aged between 65 and 75 years of age are believed to be at risk.
If the scan is normal, the chance of an aneurysm occurring in the future is extremely low. However, Figures show that when an aneurysm ruptures, 50-80 per cent of patients will die despite access to medical treatment.
Estimated figures show that by finding and treating abdominal aortic aneurysms early, the programme could save 170 lives every year.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:
"Abdominal aortic aneurysms are a hidden killer which affects one in 20 men in Scotland, most of whom will be unaware that they have the condition.
"Sadly, the first sign of a problem for many men will be when the aneurysm ruptures and, by that time, it's often too late - if left unscreened more than 8 in 10 ruptures can prove fatal.
"But a simple 10-minute scan can detect the aneurysm, enabling treatment to begin and saving hundreds of lives each year. Dealing with potential illness as soon as possible not only means that lives are saved, it also means an efficient NHS.”
Dr Murdo Murchison from Muir of Ord in Ross-shire was checked by NHS Highland in a pilot abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) screening programme in 2002. When he was first screened he was found to have a moderate risk and was called back every year to be checked. In 2009 the aneurysm was found to be slightly bigger. Dr Murchison is now screened every three months.
Dr Murchison said:
“AAA is potentially serious and so it was very reassuring for it to be detected in the first instance and then to be monitored in such an efficient way. When I first went to be screened I had no idea there was anything the matter with me. I had no symptoms then and I have no symptoms now. It is a condition you are completely unaware of and this is why the screening is so important.
“I would really encourage any man invited to take part in screening to participate. The screening itself is very simple, non invasive and takes les than five minutes. I have only praise for the screening service in general as well as the local doctors and nurses.”
Once roll out is complete, the approximate running cost is £2m per year. Screening will mean less emergency operations need to be performed, making the service cost neutral.
NHS Highland is the first Board to roll the programme out. Roll out will be completed in Scotland by December 2013.
Men entering or who are in their 65th year will receive an invite to attend a screening appointment in their local area. Men over this age who would still like to be screened may self refer through their local abdominal aortic aneurysm screening office, who will help arrange a screening appointment.
The screening involves a simple 10 minute ultrasound scan of the abdomen and will take place at local screening centers across the country.
Men will be given results immediately and either discharged, returned for surveillance or referred for treatment, with confirmation by letter.