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Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening

Read the answers to some frequently asked questions on abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening, including advice about driving, flying and health insurance.

Is abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening offered outside England?

What happens if I'm a man over 65 and haven't been screened?

Can women and men under 65 be screened?

Can I drive if I have an AAA?

Can I fly if I have an AAA?

Can I get travel insurance if I have an AAA?

What permission do I need to give to be screened and what personal information will be stored?

Could I find out about other health problems as a result of AAA screening?

Is AAA screening offered outside England?

AAA screening programmes have been set up in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

For more information, see:

What happens if I'm a man over 65 and haven't been screened?

If you're a man over 65 and you haven't been screened before, you can contact your local screening service to ask for a scan without going through your GP.

Can women and men under 65 be screened?

AAA screening isn't routinely offered to women and men under 65 because most burst AAAs occur in men over 65. Men are six times more likely to have an AAA than women.

There's not enough evidence to suggest that screening women and younger men would deliver major benefits.

But if you think you might be at an increased risk of AAA – for example, because a close family member has had one – talk to your GP about the possibility of having a scan to check for an AAA.

If your GP feels you might benefit from having a scan, this will usually be done when you're five years younger than the age at which your relative was found to have an AAA.

If you have a family history of AAA, you should take the usual health precautions of not smoking, eating healthily, and exercising regularly. Read more about how to reduce your risk of an AAA.

Can I drive if I have an AAA?

You may need to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you have an AAA. You may need to stop driving if it's large.

The DVLA say:

  • car and motorcycle drivers must tell the DVLA if their AAA measures more than 6cm and stop driving if it reaches 6.5cm
  • bus, coach and lorry drivers must tell the DVLA if they have an AAA of any size and stop driving if it reaches 5.5cm

You can usually drive again once your AAA has been treated. The GOV.UK website has more on how to tell the DVLA about an AAA.

Ask your GP if you're not sure if you need to inform the DVLA about your AAA or temporarily stop driving.

Having an AAA shouldn't affect your car insurance premium.

Can I fly if I have an AAA?

It's safe to travel by plane if you have an AAA. They're no more likely to burst at a high altitude than on the ground.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has been advised of this and it's not aware of any airlines that refuse people with an AAA.

Can I get travel insurance if I have an AAA?

The ABI is unaware of any travel insurance policies that specifically exclude AAAs as part of their standard wording. 

They suggest that anyone with an AAA should declare it during the application process (or when it's diagnosed, if you already have a travel insurance policy).

If you declare an AAA, you may be asked if you:

  • have had surgery (and if so, when you had it)
  • are on a waiting list for surgery
  • have any other related health conditions

You may be charged an additional premium or have the condition excluded from your cover.

When looking for cover, a broker can help. The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) operates a find a broker service that can help – they can be contacted on 0370 950 1790.

What permission do I need to give to be screened and what personal information will be stored?

At the screening clinic, you'll be asked to give permission:

  • for the programme to store and keep information about you and your visit on the national AAA screening IT system, and to use this information to help offer safe and effective screening
  • for the programme to screen you for an AAA (which involves a scan of your tummy) and to tell you the result
  • if you're found to have an AAA, to share your personal information with a vascular surgeon through the National Vascular Registry

You'll only be screened if you give consent to all three points.

You'll also be asked if the screening programme can use your information to contact you in the future about research that's going on in the programme. You don't have to give permission for this to be screened.

For more information, the screening programme has produced a leaflet on how your personal information is used (PDF, 31kb).

Could I find out about other health problems as a result of AAA screening?

No. During the screening scan the technician only looks at your aorta to check if you have an AAA. They don't check for any other health conditions.

If you have any concerns about your health, speak to your GP.

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