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.

Main points

In Scotland in the year ending 31 March 2020:

  • 97.4% of men were invited for screening before their 66th birthday, the target timescale for invitation.
Outline of 10 male figures, with 8.5 of them shaded in to represent that more than 8 in 10 men took up the offer of abdominal aortic aneurysm screening in 2019/20 in Scotland (84.4% uptake).
  • 82.8% of all men eligible for screening were tested before age 66 and 3 months, the target timescale for screening.
  • Over 26,400 men were tested through the routine programme and an aneurysm was detected in 314 men (1.2%).
  • Most aneurysms identified through the screening programme were small (84%), followed by medium (9%) and large (7%).
  • Uptake of screening was lower in more deprived areas (most deprived 76.9%; least deprived 89.6%).
  • The essential threshold was met nationally in 9 of the 12 performance indicators for the screening programme.


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 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 Scottish AAA screening programme has 12 Key Performance Indicators it uses to help assess the performance of the screening programme. Each indicator has an essential and a desirable threshold. The essential threshold is the minimum level of performance the screening programme is expected to meet.

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on delivery of AAA screening programme

On 30 March 2020 the Scottish Government announced the temporary pause of the national screening programmes (external website) in Scotland, including AAA screening, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This followed work with local programmes who in the preceding weeks were already taking safety precautions by cancelling AAA screening clinics and deferring participants to be called up at a later stage. The last AAA screening clinics before the pause were on 20 March 2020.

As these are annual data for the year ending 31 March 2020, the effect on the key performance indicators is limited. Much of the screening activity for the period reported had already occurred before the pandemic caused disruption and the subsequent pause in screening. Where a key performance indicator result has been impacted an explanation is provided in the report commentary and the data tables.

Further information

Find out more in the full report. Data from this publication are also available from the data files section at the top of the page.

The next release of this publication will be in March 2022.

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: 28 June 2021
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