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AAA Screening

Public Health

NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening

Latest Publications

Published: 07 March 2017
Scottish Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Programme Statistics
Publication Summary Download pdf file [217kb]
Full Report Download pdf file [1702kb]

A screening programme for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA) for men aged 65 was implemented in Scotland in line with the advice from the UK National Screening Committee (NSC). A phased roll-out of the programme took place from June 2012. NHS Highland and NHS Western Isles were the first NHS Boards to implement the screening programme and by November 2013 all NHS Boards were participating.

An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) is a swelling of the aorta, the main artery in the body, as it passes through the abdomen. As some people get older, the wall of the aorta in the abdomen can become weak and balloon out to form an aneurysm. The condition is most common in men aged 65 and over and usually there are no symptoms.

Large aneurysms are uncommon but can be very serious. As the wall of the aorta stretches, it becomes weaker, and it can rupture (burst). If the aneurysm ruptures, this leads to life-threatening internal bleeding and, in 8 out of 10 cases, death.

The Scottish AAA screening programme aims to reduce deaths associated with the risk of aneurysm rupture in men aged 65 and over by identifying aneurysms early so that they can be monitored or treated. The screening test is a simple ultrasound scan of the abdomen which takes around 10 minutes. Men aged 65 are invited to attend AAA screening and men aged over 65 can self-refer into the screening programme. Most men have a normal result and are discharged from the screening programme. Men with detected small or medium aneurysms are invited for regular surveillance screening to check the size of the aneurysm. Men with large aneurysms are referred to vascular specialist services for further investigation and to discuss treatment options.

Further information on the AAA screening programme in Scotland can be found on the NHS Inform website.

AAA Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are used to help monitor and evaluate the screening programme. These indicators are not intended to cover all aspects of the programme nor the detail of any subsequent surgical intervention. They are designed to assess critical achievement of aspects of the screening pathway: Invitation; Attendance; Quality of screening, Referral; Clinical Intervention; and Outcomes.

The purpose of reporting achievement of the KPIs is to give a high level view of the performance of the AAA screening programme, act as a driver for continuous improvement, and to direct specific review of any areas that (from the KPIs) appear to be underperforming.

Each KPI has two thresholds:

  • Essential: the minimum level of performance which the screening programme is expected to attain.
  • Desirable: the screening programme should aspire towards attaining and maintaining performance at this level.

From March 2017, the KPIs are reported in the annual Scottish Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Screening Programme Statistics publication. Detailed definitions for each KPI can be found in the following document: AAA KPI Definitions.pdf


For general enquiries on AAA screening data and publications, please email:


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