A SIMPLE ultrasound scan diagnosed a grandfather’s life-threatening aneurysm which could have burst and killed him at any time.

Tony Richards, 65, decided to take the free screening test when an NHS invitation arrived through the post at his home in Giffords Cross Road, Corringham.

Soon he was diagnosed with a “sizeable” abdominal aortic aneurysm caused when the aorta, the main artery in the abdomen, becomes weak and starts to expand.

About 6,000 people, mostly men aged 65 and over, die in England and Wales every year after large aneurysms rupture.

The screening service is part of a UK wide programme for men over 65 launched last year – Southend Hospital provides the service for the whole of Essex after winning the bid to host it.

Mr Richards said: “It came as a bit of a shock to be diagnosed. I only did the test as it didn’t cost anything and I believe in prevention rather than cure.

“I had a further consultation and then the procedure done.

“I had never heard of it before.

“We researched it online and found it was life-threatening. I was in shock. I felt fighting fit and had no symptoms or pain.”

Mr Richards, who lives with his wife Sheila, had the aneurysm removed by keyhole surgery on the Monday and was home by Friday.

He is now looking forward to getting back to his work as a self employed handyman.

The father-of-two said: “It’s the first time I’ve been in hospital since I was seven having my tonsils out. I’m so glad I went along for the screening. It was straight forward.

“I’m feeling more capable and feel I’ve progressed reasonably well.

“You can go through life with an AAA until it ruptures – and then you’re dead. I’m very grateful to the surgeons for operating so quickly and thankful I went for the screening which saved my life.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to normal and going for walks with my grandchild.”

Dr Matthew Tam, consultant interventional radiologist who oversees the scanning for the screening programme, and who inserted Mr Richards’ stents said: “Early detection of AAA through screening enables us to offer monitoring or treatment, reducing potentially fatal outcomes, as we have demonstrated with Mr Richards. I hope he will be decorating for many years to come.”