Aortic aneurysm - like a tyre blowout so take up screening

Dr Mark Porter highlights the need to take up offers to be scanned to check the wall of the aorta, the largest artery in your body, for any weakening or bulging.
Times article


See earlier NEWS items on articles from Dr Mark Porter in the Times

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See our earlier note on another of Dr Mark Porter's articles on sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, which is the reaction to an infection in which the body attacks its own organs and tissues. More

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See our earlier note on another of Dr Mark Porter's articles on recognising the signs of a stroke and how the FAST reminder can help you. More

Photo & article: Times

Posted: 180523
In an article in the Times yesterday, Dr Mark Porter highlighted the concerns with aortic aneurysms which in some ways seem like a tyre blowout in the body! He said "despite the very best modern surgery only one in five people survives a leak from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The trick is to catch it early at a stage when the wall of the aorta is starting to weaken and bulge. This is where the national screening programme comes in".

To illustrate why a leak is serious Dr Porter notes "
the aorta is the largest artery in your body. At about 2cm in diameter it is the size of a garden hose pipe, but under much higher pressure — enough to send a column of blood nearly 2 metres into the air — so you can imagine what happens if it ruptures. This is how 3,000 people die in England and Wales every year, which is why the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is working on guidance to improve diagnosis and management". Times article
How common is an aortic aneurysm?
Dr Porter says "in a typical year just over 300,000 men are screened, with a pick-up rate of about 1 per cent. In 2014/15 in England alone that led to 2,773 abdominal aortic aneurysms being identified, nearly 700 of which were operated on with a survival rate of 98.8 per cent (at 30 days post-op)". But one in five men invited for screening in the UK don't take up the invitation.

Warning signs
Warning signs are important too. Enlarging aneurysms — in men or women — can cause deep, constant mid-abdominal pain, backache and pulsating behind the navel (often normal in slimmer people). If the aneurysm bursts you will know about it, but symptoms include sudden or intense tummy or back pain, feeling faint, nausea, cold sweats and even loss of consciousness. Your only hope is to get to hospital as fast as possible, and even then it may be too late.