Screening stops ‘silent killer’ claiming lives

George Kilpatrick from Stainforth in Doncaster who collapsed whilst performing on stage due to a Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
George Kilpatrick from Stainforth in Doncaster who collapsed whilst performing on stage due to a Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
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Trevor Sherburn is, by his own admission, a grateful man. Visiting his do ctor complaining of feeling under the weather, he was soon diagnosed with an enormous bulge in a vital blood vessel – which could have ruptured at any time.

The 67-year-old is now urging pensioners in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster to take up the opportunity of being screened for his condition – abdominal aortic aneurysm – to ensure the potentially life-threatening illness is correctly diagnosed before it is too late.

Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm at a local Medical Centre

Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm at a local Medical Centre

Trevor, from Swinton near Rotherham, said before the aneurysm was discovered, he had felt cold and had an indigestion-like pain in his stomach.

A scan of the area revealed the retired police officer had an abdominal aortic aneurysm of over 10cm – more than five times the size of the average healthy aorta.

The bulge in Trevor’s abdominal aorta,which runs in a straight line down from the heart through the chest and stomach area, was nearly twice the size of an aneurysm normally defined as ‘large’.

He was immediately admitted to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where he underwent surgery. Now recovering at home, Trevor said he felt ‘very lucky’.

“My aneurysm was over 10cm in diameter and could have ruptured at any time. If that had happened, I doubt I’d be here now.

“I’ve always been fit and active and, bar some slight stomach pain and occasionally feeling cold, I didn’t have any symptoms or know anything was wrong with me.

“I didn’t know anything about AAAs until mine was found, but then the seriousness of the condition very quickly became clear to me.

“All I really want to do now is urge other men aged 65 and over to take up the offer of screening and make an appointment for a 10-minute scan.”

Shah Nawaz, the surgeon who performed Trevor’s operation at the Northern General, said: “He was lucky that his aneurysm was picked up before it ruptured. He was also fortunate that his aneurysm had started to cause symptoms, as this is not normally the case.

“If aneurysms are not identified and continue to expand they can rupture, making it much harder to save someone’s life.

“We were able to get to Mr Sherburn in time and he is recovering well – but I would encourage men to consider seriously the offer of screening so that they don’t end up in his position.”

Musician George Kilpatrick, 66, from Stainforth in Doncaster, is also appealing for older men to be screened.

George was on stage in Boston, Lincolnshire in February when he felt his stomach ‘swelling like a balloon’.

After telling the audience he didn’t feel well, his aorta ruptured and he collapsed.

George woke five hours later in intensive care following major surgery.

“I didn’t know anything about this condition, but it only took 15 seconds for it to very nearly kill me.

“I am very lucky. I want people to be aware of the gravity of an AAA as it can be a desperately serious condition.”

In South Yorkshire, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals Trust has been tasked with providing the NHS AAA Screening Programme.

Vascular surgeon Mr Ray Cuschieri, the county’s clinical lead for the scheme, said the test is a ‘free and simple’ ultrasound scan.

“We have 28 clinics across South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw where we carry out the screening. The scan is quick, painless and non-invasive. It takes less than 10 minutes and you get your result straight away.

“More than 600 men have referred themselves for screening since July and we would like more to do so because this programme will save lives.”

Around 8,500 local men will be invited for screening during the year they turn 65.

Men who are already over 65 and have not been screened can call the programme office on 01709 321189, or email dbh-tr.dbhaaa@nhs.net to make an appointment.

Visit the national programme website at www.aaa.screening.nhs.uk for more information.

Factfile

The abdominal aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, and is roughly the width of a garden hose. It transports oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, and runs in a straight line through the chest and abdomen before branching off into a network of smaller blood vessels.

In most cases, an abdominal aortic aneurysm causes no noticeable symptoms and does not pose a serious threat to health. However, there is a risk that a larger aneurysm could rupture or burst open.

A ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause massive internal bleeding, which is usually fatal. According to the NHS, four out of five people with a ruptured aortic aneurysm will die as a result.

The most common symptom of a ruptured aortic aneurysm is sudden and severe pain in the abdomen. If this happens, people are advised to call 999 straight away and ask for an ambulance.

- If screening detects an aneurysm, treatment will be recommended to prevent it from rupturing. This usually involves surgery to replace the weakened section of blood vessel with a piece of synthetic tubing.

The size of the aneurysm is used to measure the risk of it rupturing. Preventative surgery is often recommended for an abdominal aortic aneurysm larger than 5.5cm.

Non-surgical treatments include a type of medication known as a statin.