Ian Mearns MP visits AAA programme

Posted on Fri, 05/07/2013

IAN Mearns MP for Gateshead, along with Deputy Leader of Gateshead Council Martin Gannon visited the AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm) HQ at the QE Hospital today, as part of the trust’s celebrations for the 65th birthday of the NHS.

The AAA screening which is offered to all men during, coincidentally, their 65th year, aims to detect and prevent aneurysms. An AAA is an enlargement of the aorta in the abdomen, this happens slowly, often over many years and there are generally no symptoms. When the aorta becomes enlarged to a certain size, it can rupture, and sadly only 15% of patients will survive a rupture. The screening involves having a scan similar to an ultrasound where trained technicians can detect the size of the aorta. It’s estimated that AAA is the third biggest killer of men over 65 in the north east.

The preventative screening programme being run from Gateshead, covers the North East, Cumbria and parts of Yorkshire and the North West, and is aiming to change all that. All men registered with a GP will receive an invite to screening letter, and we would urge them to take up the offer.

Ian said: “I didn’t really know a lot about AAA before coming to the QE today, I didn’t realise the extent of the problem, and was very surprised by the high mortality rate as well as it being the third biggest killer of men over 65 in the region.  The vast majority of those that are screened, are simply reassured that they are healthy, but for those that are found to have an aneurysm it really could be a lifesaver. I don’t know why anyone who receives their letter would turn down the opportunity to be screened.”

One man who knows the importance of the screening programme is 67-year-old Peter Houlsby from Jesmond in Newcastle. Peter Houlsby received his letter in 2011 and was found to have an aneurysm, he said: “There were no symptoms, I didn’t feel unwell so I didn’t expect there to be anything wrong with me. It was a huge surprise when they found something, but my decision to go along to the screening saved my life, and I’d urge any man who receives the letter to go along. The screening is very quick, and absolutely painless, and may save you from this silent killer.”

Peter went on to make a full recovery, after his surgeon Professor Gerry Stansby Vascular Surgeon and Clinical Director for the AAA programme, operated to reduce to size of the aneurysm.

Professor Gerry Stansby , said: “A ruptured aneurysm is a very serious and life threatening condition which often strikes completely out of the blue in otherwise healthy people. Unfortunately only a minority of patients survive a ruptured AAA. The AAA screening programme can prevent this with a simple ultrasound scan. It is a real life- saving opportunity for men age 65.”

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