About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides an annual update on the Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) screening programme in Scotland. This programme aims to reduce the number of deaths caused by abdominal aneurysms in men aged 65 and over.

These statistics are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On 30 March 2020 the Scottish Government announced the temporary pause of the national screening programmes in Scotland, including AAA screening. The first AAA screening clinics resumed at the end of July 2020 and by September 2020 all local NHS board programmes were having regular clinics.

Main points

Data for men reaching age 66 in the year ending 31 March 2021:

  • 90.5% of men were invited for screening before their 66th birthday, the target timescale for invitation (97.4% in the previous year).
  • 78.0% of all men eligible for screening were tested before age 66 and 3 months, the target timescale for screening (82.8% in previous year).
  • Some of these men were tested in the year ending 31 March 2020, before the temporary pause in the screening programme.
  • Coverage of screening was lower in more deprived areas (most deprived 72.1%; least deprived 86.0%). The gap in coverage between the most deprived and least deprived areas has remained constant over the past three years.

Scans and vascular referrals in the year ending 31 March 2021:

  • The total number of initial and surveillance scans completed in the year ending 31 March 2021 was 16,148 (down from 29,582 in the previous year).
  • A large aneurysm was detected in 78 men resulting in a referral to vascular specialist services. Nearly all men were seen by a vascular specialist within two weeks (96.2%).
  • Two in ten men deemed appropriate for AAA repair surgery were operated on within eight weeks compared to five in ten men in the previous year.


An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm is a swelling of the aorta, the main artery in the body, as it passes through the abdomen. 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.

Men aged 65 are sent an invitation to attend screening. Men over 65 years of age, who have not been screened previously, can self-refer into the screening programme. The test is a simple ultrasound scan of the abdomen. 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 scans to monitor the size of the aneurysm. Men with large aneurysms are at high risk of aneurysm rupture and are referred to vascular specialist services for assessment and to discuss treatment options.

The screening coverage rates includes scans completed over of a period of two years and three months. This reflects the time between the first (youngest) men in the eligible cohort reaching age 65 (and becoming eligible for initial screening) and the last (oldest) men in the cohort reaching age 66 and 3 months, the target timescale for screening.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be in March 2023.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.aaascreenstats@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 13 June 2022
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