An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a swelling of the aorta, the main artery in the body, as it passes through the abdomen. Men across Scotland in their 65th year are invited to be screened for AAA. The screening programme aims to reduce the mortality associated with the risk of AAA rupture in men aged 65 years and older. The screening involves an ultrasound scan of the abdomen and appointments will take place at local screening centres across Scotland. Most men will have a normal result. If an aneurysm is detected through screening, it will be monitored, and if the aneurysm is large, treatment will be offered.

  • It is estimated that about 1 in 20 men aged 65 and over, in Scotland, have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • The condition is most common in men aged 65 and over, and usually there are no symptoms.
  • Up to 170 lives a year in Scotland could be saved through the AAA screening programme.
  • Overall uptake of the AAA screening programme is high with 84% of men in Scotland attending their appointment.  
  • Early detection, and treatment of AAA greatly reduces the chance of rupture.

Information Services Division AAA Screening Programme page (external website) has more information on AAA screening, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and screening trends over time.

AAA screening and health inequalities

There are inequalities in the risk factors for AAA, and in the uptake of AAA screening.

  • Men are 6 times more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm than women.
  • Men are at higher risk if they are smokers, have high cholesterol, have high blood pressure and have a family history of aneurysms.
  • Uptake of AAA screening is lower in the most deprived areas.

To support health professionals, we have developed a series of briefing papers (external website) explaining what an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is, why the NHS offers AAA screening, and what happens when you go for AAA screening.

Local and national action

The AAA screening programme was implemented in Scotland in 2012. The Scottish Government outlined their plans for implementation in a Chief Executive Letter (PDF, 134 KB) (external website) in 2010.

NHS Boards ensure that the AAA screening service meets the Healthcare Improvement Scotland standards (2011) (external website).

We ensure that men are fully informed of the AAA screening process, and what to expect at their appointment to enable them to make a personal choice about whether to attend. All men are sent an information leaflet along with their AAA screening appointment letter. We also produce result leaflets for men who have a small, medium, or large aneurysm. Information is available in English, Polish, Traditional Chinese, Urdu and easy-read format. Our general AAA invitation leaflet is also available in Romanian.

NHS inform hosts further AAA screening information for the public.