A LIFE-saving screening programme is up and running.

And Almondbury man Keith Sykes was among the first in West Yorkshire to try it out.

Having been invited as part of the national screening programme for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), Mr Sykes went to The University Health Centre in Sand Street, Aspley.

The aorta is the main blood vessel running from the heart down through the chest and abdomen. Over time the walls can become weak and expand to form a localised ballooning of the artery which is an AAA.

They are rare but if they go undetected, expand and burst they can cause death. Nearly 6,000 people die a year from AAAs.

The screening is a free, simple, painless ultrasound scan aimed to reduce the number of deaths from aneurysms.

Results can be given within the appointment.

If aneurysms are discovered, then small ones will require monitoring while larger ones will be referred to a specialist.

One in 100 men have large aneurysms most cases can be successfully treated.

Men are six times more likely to have this type of aneurysm than women and 95% are found in men over 65.

In a bid to combat this, around 7,500 men a year, aged 65 in the Kirklees, Calderdale, Bradford, Airedale and Craven areas will automatically be sent an invitation from the national screening programme.

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) are leading the scans, which are being offered at health centres and some GP practices across the area in a programme developed across two NHS Trusts and five PCTs. CHFT screening programme manager Kathryn Aldous said: “This is a simple, non-invasive, painless ultrasound test which could potentially detect a serious life-threatening condition.

“With an abdominal aortic aneurysm there may not be any symptoms such as a pain so a person cannot tell if they have one. We would urge all men to take up the invitation and are hearing from them that their wives have made sure they attend.”

Reminders will be automatically sent out if a patient does not attend.

By 2013, the screening programme, which is being rolled-out nationally aims to have covered the whole country.

If you are over 65 and have never been invited for AAA screening you can ask for a scan by contacting your local screening programme on 01422 224 204.