Preventing problems – vascular surgery for aneurysms

The vessels that carry blood around our bodies are vital for all of us but sometimes things can go wrong.

The large vessel that carries blood from the heart – called the aorta – can bulge out because the vessel walls weaken. This is called an aortic aneurysm.

This bulge can go on to burst and if this happens there is massive internal bleeding which can be fatal.

Thankfully, burst aortic aneurysms are rare – about one person in every 10,000 each year in England.

To help prevent this the NHS has a screening programme aimed at older men, who are at higher risk, and here at UHS we have effective surgical treatment for those with aneurysms likely to burst.

Our vascular surgeons who undertake these planned repairs on aortic aneurysms have good results.

We received feedback earlier this year from the first outcome report on this type of surgery. At Southampton there were 221 patients in the audit and 219 of those patients were successfully treated.

Unfortunately there were two deaths but our mortality rate of 1.5% compares well with other centres – with the average for the country at 2.4%.

To read more about this surgery you can go to the NHS Choices website.

Though we don’t fully understand all the causes of these major vessel bulges we do know that smoking and a high fat diet increase the chance of it occurring. Being at a healthy weight and taking regular exercise helps reduce our risks.

Stopping smoking can also reduce the risk and we have been working closely with an onsite team from Quitters (run by Solent NHS Trust) since September 2011 to get more patients referred into their service.

The great news is we’ve seen three times as many referrals to Quitters compared to 2010. Quitters have trained up our staff on giving advice about smoking and are have been successful in getting smokers on to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Patients continue to be given support even after being discharged home.

Getting support from their local stop smoking service means smokers are four times more likely to succeed. Helping patients become smoke-free will not only benefit their health, but could also reduce their stay in hospital and decrease their chance of re-admission.

Southampton Quitters aren’t just here to see patients, but can provide support to any staff members or visitors to the hospital who wish to quit. For more details please see Southampton Quitters page on


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