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What if I am found to have a small or medium aneurysm?

What should I do if I am found to have a small or medium aneurysm?

Aneurysms grow very slowly so the risk of having serious problems is very low. Men who have a small or medium aneurysm detected are invited back for regular surveillance scans to monitor the size of the aneurysm.  They are also provided with advice on how they may slow the growth of the aneurysm.

Generally this will be by:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Ensuring their weight is at a normal level
  • Taking regular exercise
  • Taking medication on the advice of their GP
  • A man's GP may also want to review what medication he is taking and provide regular blood pressure monitoring.

What happens if I have a large aneurysm?

Men with an aorta that has a diameter of 5.5cm or over are referred to see a specialist, within two weeks, to have further scans and discuss having an operation.

What treatment is available for an AAA (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm)?

Almost all large AAA can be treated through surgery if they are detected early. The vascular surgeon will discuss treatments options with the man once an AAA has been diagnosed. Generally there are two types of treatment available: Most aneurysms are treated by an operation in which the aneurysm is replaced with an artificial artery made of a very strong plastic. This 'artificial artery' should last for the rest of the man's life and will protect the aorta against possible rupture . Some aneurysms are suitable for a form of keyhole surgery called Endovascular Aneurysm Repair (EVAR). This involves threading thin tubes through the arteries from the groin, until they reach the aorta. The tubes are used to carry stents to the site of the aneurysm. A stent is a special type of tube which expands to line the inside of the aorta and protect against possible rupture. 

Why are small to medium aneurysms not treated?

It is highly unlikely that a small or medium AAA will pose a serious risk. As with any operation, there is a risk associated with having surgery for an AAA. As this risk is greater than that posed by monitoring the AAA surgeons do not recommend treatment for men with a small or medium AAA. If the aneurysm grows and becomes a serious risk then surgery may become an option and will be discussed with the man.

Will AAA screening pick up other problems?

No. Screening is just to see if you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. It does not look for other problems. If you are worried about any medical problem you should speak to your GP.

What are the implications for driving?

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is responsible for deciding whether people can drive on the basis of their health or any conditions they may have.  GPs can advise people whether they should refrain from driving and whether a health condition must be reported to the DVLA.  Motor insurers cannot ask questions about health conditions and so do not adjust premiums on that basis. The DVLA's policy on driving once an AAA has been diagnosed states that for motor car drivers, the DVLA should be notified once a diagnosed AAA reaches 6cm. Once the AAA reaches 6.5cm the patient should be suspended from driving. Drivers of lorries and buses should be suspended from driving once an AAA  reaches 5.5cm. If treated successfully, then licences will be reinstated. The NHS AAA Screening Programme refers men to vascular surgeons if their AAA (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm)  reaches 5.5cm. The DVLA policy does not affect men with small aneurysms (3.0-5.4cm) who are part of the Programme's surveillance group.


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