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AAA Screening: A Life-saving Test

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

You may think of emergency car care when you see AAA. But the acronym also stands for a different type of emergency. An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a major health risk that may not show symptoms until a life-threatening rupture occurs.

What is an AAA?

The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When an AAA occurs, pressure from the flow of blood through the aorta causes a weakened part of the aorta to bulge, similar to a bubble in a garden hose. If the AAA is undiscovered, it can stretch the aorta to the point of rupturing, which is dangerous and can cause life-threatening bleeding.

What are the signs and symptoms?

"Most aneurysms grow silently and slowly and are only discovered by chance," said Dr. Mark Wyers, a vascular surgeon with the CardioVascular Institute. "Pain may be the only warning of impending rupture. Aneurysm pain is usually quite severe, located in the lower back or abdomen and should be taken very seriously."

How are AAAs treated?

Each year, about 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with AAA and about 15,000 of these are serious enough to cause a fatal rupture if not treated.

The good news is that, if diagnosed early, AAAs can be treated safely and effectively. In fact, BIDMC's CardioVascular Institute (CVI) is currently repairing more than 60 percent of AAAs with a non-surgical technique, according to Dr. Wyers.

Free Screening for Qualified Seniors

Fortunately, qualified Medicare recipients are entitled to a free, one-time screening to detect AAAs using an abdominal ultrasound, which is a simple, quick, and/or painless procedure.

Abdominal Ultrasound

Who is eligible?

Medicare recipients are eligible for the test within the first 12 months of coverage. Men who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime, and men and women with a family history of AAA qualify for the Medicare screening.

The Society for Vascular Surgery is working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make this Medicare screening benefit available to even more patients.

How do I schedule my free screening?

You can schedule a screening at the CVI by calling 617-632-9959.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted August 2010

Contact Information

CardioVascular Institute at
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215