Below you will find information about the study itself and aortic aneurysms. Feel free to contact us with questions (see link above).

What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (or AAA)?

  • An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a swelling (aneurysm) of the aorta – the main blood vessel that leads away from the heart, down through the abdomen to the rest of the body.
  • The abdominal aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body and is usually around 2cm wide – roughly the width of a garden hose. However, it can swell to over 5.5cm – what doctors class as a large AAA.
  • Large aneurysms are rare, but can be very serious. If a large aneurysm bursts, it causes huge internal bleeding and is usually fatal.
  • The bulging occurs when the wall of the aorta weakens. Although what causes this weakness is unclear, smoking and high blood pressure are thought to increase the risk of an aneurysm.
  • AAAs are most common in men aged over 65. A rupture accounts for more than 1 in 50 of all deaths in this group and a total of 6,000 deaths in England and Wales each year.
  • This is why all men are invited for a screening test when they turn 65. The test involves a simple ultrasound scan, which takes around 10-15 minutes.
  • If you click below, you can watch an animation by NHS Choices regarding AAA

Details about the FAST Study:

  • The Female Aneurysm Screening Study is an ambitious research project, investigating AAA screening in women.
  • This research will open the way to protecting women who are most at risk of a fatal rupture of the aorta, which can be caused by an AAA. If detected early AAAs can be monitored and may be surgically repaired to prevent rupture. An AAA usually shows no symptoms but can usually be diagnosed easily and safely well before rupture by ultrasound scanning. Surgical repair is usually carried out when the size of the AAA is more than 5.5cm in diameter as below this size the risk of rupture is lower than the risk of surgery.
  • Men are offered screening for AAA at age 65. Women are not screened because the disease is less common in females and screening of all women is not cost-effective.Deaths in men due to AAA have decreased over the last decade. In women, there has been a reduction in AAA death rates but to a lesser extent than in men and now women account for a third of all deaths caused by ruptured AAA. Recent research has highlighted the concentration of disease in certain high-risk groups of women such as smokers and those with heart disease. These risk factors are now routinely recorded by general practitioners.
  • This research will determine whether it is feasible to use readily available general practice data to identify women at higher risk of AAA and offer them screening. We will determine how many women in these higher risk groups will attend if they are invited for AAA screening, and how many of them have AAAs. This will demonstrate whether targeting higher risk groups of women for AAA screening is feasible and can be clinically justified.