Great Britain

Health experts warn against 'silent killer' in Middlesbrough and Tees Valley

HEALTH officials have warned against elderly people avoiding screenings for an aneurysm which causes swelling in main blood vessel that runs from the heart through the chest and stomach.

Professionals on Teesside are advising against the dangers of the a “silent killer” - abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) - after it has been revealed men in Middlesbrough aged 65 and over have the lowest uptake of AAA screenings in the region.

A screening can detect the health issue, which if left untreated can rupture, in just ten minutes via an ultrasound scan.

In 2018/19, just 65.6 per cent of Middlesbrough men, who qualified for the free screening programme, got a scan - well below the regional figures of over 80 per cent attendance.

Nationally, eight out of every ten people with a ruptured AAA die before they reach hospital, or don’t survive the emergency surgery.

In most cases, there are no noticeable symptoms that would feel out of the ordinary, meaning people will not know they have one.

However, people sometimes experience a pulsing sensation, like a heartbeat, in the stomach as well as stomach or lower back pain that doesn't go away.

The aneurysm can expand and burst without warning, causing “potentially life-threatening" bleeding.

According to the NHS, if an AAA bursts, it can cause sudden, severe pain in the stomach or lower back, dizziness, pale and clammy skin, a fast heartbeat, shortness of breath and fainting or passing out.

Figures from Public Health England’s NHS AAA Screening Programme estimate that one in every 70 men aged 65 years and over has an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Emma Golightly, of the North East and North Cumbria AAA Screening Service, said: “It is extremely worrying that men aged 65 and over in Middlesbrough have the lowest uptake for screening in the region.

“Accepting an invitation to attend a screening could prove to be life-saving.

“We really want to work with the screening service to encourage people to attend their appointments where a simple ten-minute scan really could prove to be lifesaving.”

NHS South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group GP Dr Janet Walker is supporting the North East and North Cumbria AAA Screening Service, alongside local GPs, Public Health England and a host of voluntary and community sector organisations to try and get the vital health message across.

Clinical director of the North East and North Cumbria AAA Screening Service and vascular surgeon Professor Gerard Stansby said: ”It is a tragedy when men with so much to live for die unexpectedly of a treatable condition.

"Screening for AAA has reduced such deaths already and I would encourage all who are eligible to attend."