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AAA Screening


What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?

The abdominal aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. About the diameter of a garden hose, this artery extends from the heart down through the chest and abdominal region, where it divides into blood vessels that supply each leg. An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of the aorta caused by weakening of the vessel wall. As the lining gets weaker, primarily due to age and other risk factors, the vessel wall becomes thinner and expands like a balloon. Although an aneurysm can develop anywhere along your aorta, most occur in the section running through your abdomen (abdominal aneurysms).
 
Frequently Asked Questions
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What are the risk factors for developing a AAA?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City Why is screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms important?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What is a screening ultrasound of the aorta?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City What will I experience during the procedure?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City How should I prepare for the procedure?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City Who interprets the results and how do I get them?
CT Cat Scan MRI Imaging Centers for Cardiology & Oncology in New Jersey & New York City Does my insurance cover this exam?


Most people have no symptoms. When the blood vessel walls start to leak, you may feel pain in your back, stomach, buttocks, groin, or leg. An aortic aneurysm is serious because - depending on its size - can rupture, producing catastrophic bleeding and results in a fatality 80% of the time. Most people with an AAA present no warning signs. Therefore, a preventive ultrasound screening may identify this life threatening health problem early enough for your physician to take corrective action.


What are the risk factors for developing a AAA?

Abdominal aortic aneurysms are rare in people under the age of 60. About one person in 1000 develops an abdominal aortic aneurysm between the ages of 60 and 65, and this number continues to rise with age. Screening studies show that abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in to 2 to 13 percent of men and 6 percent of women over the age of 65. However, almost 90 percent of the aneurysms identified by screening are small (less than 3.5 cm in diameter) and not dangerous.

In addition to age, a number of other factors may increase a person's risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm:

  • Smoking markedly increases risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm. The risk is directly related to number of years smoking and decreases in the years following smoking cessation.
  • Men develop abdominal aortic aneurysms four to five times more often than women.
  • People who are white develop aortic aneurysms more commonly than other groups.
  • People with other medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, are more likely to develop abdominal aortic aneurysms.
  • A family history of abdominal aneurysm increases the risk of developing the disease and interacts with the risks associated with age and gender. The risk of developing an aneurysm among brothers of a patient with a known aneurysm who are older than 60 years of age is as high as 18 percent.


Why is screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms important?

Each year, approximately 15,000 Americans die of a ruptured aortic aneurysm. When detected in time, an aortic aneurysm can usually be repaired. Because most people with a AAA have show no warning signs, a preventative ultrasound screening may identify this life threatening health problem early enough for your physician to take corrective action. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) by ultrasonography in men age 65 to 75 years who have ever smoked.


What is a screening ultrasound of the aorta?

A screening ultrasound of the aorta is a fast, painless, and non-invasive way of evaluating your abdominal aorta for the aneurysms. Ultrasound imaging uses no ionizing radiation.


What will I experience during the procedure?

You are usually positioned face-up on the examination table. The sonographer will then spread some warm gel on your skin and press the transducer firmly against your body, moving it back and forth over the area of interest until the desired images are captured. You may actually hear pulse-like sounds that change in pitch as the blood flow is monitored and measured. Once the imaging is complete, the gel will be wiped off your skin. After an ultrasound exam, you should be able to resume your normal activities immediately.


How should I prepare for the procedure?

No preparation is necessary in advance. You should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for your ultrasound exam. You will need to remove all clothing and jewelry in the area to be examined. You may be asked to wear a gown during the procedure.


Who interprets the results and how do I get them?

A Radiologist, a physician specifically trained to supervise and interpret radiology examinations, will analyze the images and send a signed report to your primary care or referring physician, who will share the results with you.


Does my insurance cover this exam?

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening is covered for at risk individuals by Medicare and most other insurance providers. Please check with your provider to see if you are covered for this screening examination.

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