Page last updated at 05:36 GMT, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 06:36 UK

Delay in starting aneurysm screening 'costing lives'


Kenneth Gravell from Gelli, Rhondda Cynon Taff, spoke of his shock after an aneurysm was picked up

Doctors are warning any delay in rolling out a screening programme for swollen arteries may be costing lives.

Surgeons with The Vascular Society say the abdominal aortic aneurysm screening for 65-year-old men across Wales needs to begin as soon as possible.

A national screening programme started in England in April 2009.

The assembly government said it had provided £600,000 and agreed the plan in December 2009, but that screening was not due to start for another year.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is the swelling or ballooning of the abdominal aorta blood vessel, often causing the aorta to grow to several times its normal size.

Mike Lewis
If you live in the majority of Wales you may have an abdominal aneurysm and it is not being looked at
Mike Lewis, surgeon

If untreated, the condition can cause the aorta to rupture, and the risk rises with the size of the aneurysm.


Local screening programmes have shown around 5% of 65 year old men are at risk, but if the aneurysm is detected early, it can be operated on safely.

Ruptures are responsible for 2.1% of all deaths in men over 65 years of age, who are six times more likely to suffer from the condition than women of a similar age.

Mike Lewis has been a consultant surgeon for 26 years and is one of a handful of people in Wales running a screening programme at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant.

He said: "We've had meetings over the past few years to look at whether screening is valuable, and whichever way you look at it, either financially, emotionally or health units, it is invaluable.

"In England we have five units running and one coming online. [In Wales] we are continuing with one or two units like my own.

"If you live in the majority of Wales you may have an abdominal aneurysm and it is not being looked at.

David Kennedy
I'd have been dead, I've been told that
David Kennedy, patient

"I'm not sure how much longer we have to wait and watch unnecessary morbidity, i.e. illness, and death, unnecessarily."

He said the majority of people would die in their home if they had a ruptured aneurysm, and 80% of those who made it to hospital would also not survive.

David Kennedy, from Tonteg, Rhondda Cynon Taf, needed emergency surgery when his undetected aneurysm started to cause problems.

"I felt some pain which I thought was a pulled muscle. It persisted the following day and my wife insisted I go to the doctor," he said.

'Strongly recommend'

"When I got home I started to feel faint and the pain got more severe and I was feeling sick. My wife insisted I go back to the doctor and asked if they suspected an aneurysm. It was, and they called the paramedics.

"An ambulance came and brought me here and fortunately Mr Lewis was here. Once they scanned me my feet didn't touch the floor. I didn't have time to think about it or worry about it.

"I'd have been dead, I've been told that [if it hadn't been caught].

"In view of what happened to me, I would strongly recommend screening. It's so much better to have a planned operation than the way I had it."

The Welsh Assembly Government said in a statement: "The minister has provided £0.6m from 2010-11 to help health boards plan and roll out a national co-ordinated AAA screening programme in Wales for men aged 65.

"The minister expects the programme to begin its roll out during 2011-12."

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