Ultrasound's Role in Detecting Aortic Aneurysms
An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) is a silent threat that can affect anyone, often without any noticeable symptoms until it's too late. However, the good news is that early detection can make all the difference. Here, we'll explain what it is, its risk factors, and how an ultrasound scan can help stay one step ahead of this potentially life-threatening condition.
What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)?
An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm is an abnormal bulging or swelling of the aorta, the body's largest blood vessel, as it passes through the abdomen. The aorta is responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body, so it's a vital part of the circulatory system. Most aneurysms do not cause any problems, but they can be serious because when the artery weakens and expands like a balloon, it can become life-threatening.
Why Does AAA Matter?
As the artery weakens and expands, there's a risk they could burst or rupture. In the event of a rupture of the aortic wall, it can cause severe internal bleeding, often with fatal consequences. The risk of rupture increases as the aneurysm enlarges, making early detection crucial for someone's well-being.
Signs of a rupture include sudden, severe pain in the tummy or back, breathing difficulties including stopped breathing, pale or grey skin (this may be easier to see on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet) and/or loss of consciousness.
This is a life-threatening emergency that needs to be treated in hospital as soon as possible.
Who is at Risk?
While AAA can potentially affect anyone, certain factors can increase the risk, including:
1. Age: AAA is more common in individuals over 65.
2. Gender: Men are at a higher risk than women.
3. Family History: If a family member has had an AAA, the risk may be increased.
4. Smoking: Tobacco use is a significant risk factor.
5. High Blood Pressure: Uncontrolled hypertension can weaken the aortic walls.
6. Other factors include conditions such as atherosclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or Marfan syndrome.
The Importance of Ultrasound Screening
The good news is that AAA can be detected early through a simple, painless, and non-invasive procedure: an ultrasound scan.
In the UK, an ultrasound scan is offered by the NHS to all men when they turn 65, as they're most at risk of getting an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
This is called abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and the follow-up offered is determined by the findings of the ultrasound scan. For example if no aneurysm is found, then no further screening is offered by the NHS, whilst a small aneurysm may result in annual screening and a medium-sized aneurysm will lead to 3-monthly scans to check its size. With large aneurysms, surgery is usually recommended.
Why Choose Ultrasound Screening?
1. Non-Invasive: Unlike some other screening methods, ultrasound is painless and doesn't require any injections or invasive procedures or carry any risk of radiation exposure like X-rays and CT scans.
2. Highly Effective: Ultrasound is a reliable way to detect AAA, especially when performed by qualified and experienced sonographers.
3. Early Detection: Identifying an AAA in its early stages gives you the opportunity to manage the condition and reduce the risk of rupture.
4. Inexpensive: Compared to MRI scans, ultrasound is much cheaper to offer so represents a very good value imaging modality for aorta scans.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms can be life-threatening, but early detection can save lives. If you have risk factors or are simply looking to ensure your health, consider scheduling an ultrasound scan at Starlight Ultrasound. An AAA or Aorta scan can be booked in its own as well as being included in both men's and women's abdominal scans.
At Starlight Ultrasound, we only employ qualified sonographer who have the knowledge and experience to provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your health is in good hands.
You don't need a referral letter and can book directly with Starlight Ultrasound. Don't wait until it's too late; book your ultrasound screening today and stay ahead of AAA.