Doctors are reminding men in Somerset and North Devon to attend an appointment for a free abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) check that could save their life.
The AAA service provided at GP practices across the region this month screened its 30,000th patient since it started running back in February 2011. The programme has the highest uptake in the whole country.
During this time 85 patients have been referred through the service for life saving vascular surgery and over 300 patients are being actively monitored by the programme.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body.
The service covers the whole of Somerset and North Devon and is open to all men over 65. It involves a simple ultrasound that usually takes less than 10 minutes with the results available straight away for the patient and his GP.
The team of clinical screening technicians based at Musgrove Park Hospital visit local GP surgeries so patients are able to access the service close to their own home.
An AAA can occur if the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the body gets weak and starts to expand. If untreated it can become very serious and even cause internal bleeding. Most people won’t feel any pain or symptoms so it is important that they get screened even if they don’t feel unwell.
Mr Andrew Stewart, consultant vascular surgeon at Musgrove Park Hospital and programme director, said he was delighted to reach this milestone in the screening programme.
“Men in Somerset and North Devon have led the way nationally by taking up the offer of this simple and painless ultrasound test,” he said.
“In hospital we are now seeing fewer patients with aortic aneurysm rupture and the programme is undoubtedly already saving lives.”
Dr Harry Smallwood, a GP at Taunton Road Medical Centre in Bridgwater, said: “Having the AAA screening service at our GP practice has been very valuable to our patients as they are able to attend their screening appointments closer to home.
“The service has successfully identified patients with an AAA who have been referred to the vascular team for ongoing management.”
If you are a man over the age of 65 and would like to discuss screening or book an appointment, call 01823 344 567.