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Caithness News Bulletins May 2003

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Screening Programme Continues to Save Lives
NHS Highland and The Remote and Rural Areas Resource Initiative (RARARI)

242 men in the Highlands will have a better chance of surviving in later years of life, thanks to a successful screening programme in Highland. Over 5000 men have so far been screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) in the first large screening programme of this kind to take place in Scotland. The Remote and Rural Areas Resource Initiative (RARARI) has funded the three-year project which offers screening for (AAA) to men aged 65 to 74 in Highland over three years, at a cost of  around  300 000.

Stewart Whiteford, Chairman of RARARI says, "This project is an ideal example of RARARI initiatives, which aim to make services more accessible to people who are widely spread over the large and difficult terrain of the Scottish mainland and the remote Islands.  It also reduces the risks to patients who live a long way from emergency services and acute care."

The screening service, which is risk free, quick and painless. is being provided throughout the Highlands, minimising patient travel and improving attendance through local access.  Ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)  is responsible for 1.4% of all deaths of men aged over 65.    5% of men screened in Highland have been identified as at risk. This is higher than the UK average.

21 men screened so far in Highland, have had successful corrective surgery and a further 215 men with identified aneurysms, will require monitoring for future surgical assessment, depending on the size of the aneurysm. Referrals with large aneurysms are seen urgently.

Vascular Surgeon, Mr John Duncan, who leads the project, is pleased with the project's progress so far. He says, "Fewer than 3 people in 10 who have ruptures will survive.  If a problem is picked up through screening, planned surgery can be carried out, enormously increasing the chance of survival to 95%. 
The uptake has been excellent and we have had significant results, which demonstrate the value of the screening programme. The 21 patients who have required corrective surgery have all recovered successfully."

A second Vascular Surgeon for Highland, Mr Bernhard Wolf, was appointed in January this year. He says:
"This is a very exciting project to be involved in. Transferring much of the emergency work to planned surgery is by far preferable and more beneficial both to the patients and to health professionals."

Screening now includes  Lochaber and Caithness and will be rolled out to the Western Isles in early summer. Screening in the Western Isles will be offered to around 1500 men in the age range and will be carried out in GP surgeries by locally trained staff.

The project will then move on to cover Skye and Lochalsh towards the end of the summer,  targeting around 500 men.