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Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm Screening

Abdominal aortic aneurysm involves a widening, stretching, or ballooning of the aorta.  There are several causes of abdominal aortic aneurysm, but the most common results from atherosclerotic disease.  As the aorta gets progressively larger over time there is increased chance of rupture. This screening visualizes the existence of an aneurysm in the abdominal aorta that can rupture and be fatal.  Aortic Screening is an ultrasound scan of the aorta, the body’s main artery.  The scan can tell how big the aneurysm is and when it needs treatment.


 

For additional graphic detail see: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/18072.htm

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The patient, family member, or physician may feel a pulse in the abdomen or at the sites such as the groin or behind the knee. Abdominal aneurysms become harder to feel as an individual becomes more obese or muscular. Through physical examination, ultrasound testing, MRA, MRI, or CT scan, an unsuspected aneurysm may be identified.

Some patients may complain of symptoms such as:
  • Early fullness after eating
  • Feeling full without eating
  • A "second heart" or pulse in their abdomen
  • Pain in the abdomen or lower back

Risk Factors

  • Men, ages 40-70
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Blunt trauma to the abdomen

Aneurysm

Signs and Symptoms of an Aneurysm

Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) are referred to as "The Silent Killer", as the majority of people do not have symptoms. However, AAA can sometimes present with the following:
  • AAA's are most common in people over the age of 60
  • 70 to 80 percent of AAA's are in males; however, as more women are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, this statistic is changing.
  • High blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol levels have all been shown to increase the risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • Twenty percent of people with AAA's have a family history of either cardiovascular disease or aneurysms.
Sometimes people will experience symptoms that suggest the presence of AAA:
  • Pain in the abdomen, back, or side
  • An overwhelming feeling of fullness after eating even a small amount of food
  • Frequent nausea and vomiting
  • Pulsating in the abdomen
If you experience any of the above symptoms, you should be evaluated by your doctor. Prompt action may prevent a life-threatening situation.

How is an aneurysm detected?

Abdominal aortic aneurysms are sometimes detected during a routine physical examination. Your physician may hear pulsations in your abdomen with a stethoscope. However, they are usually difficult to detect (especially in persons who are overweight). If your physician thinks that you may have an aneurysm, either due to pulsations in the abdomen or other risk factors like family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, old age, etc., he or she will likely perform the following imaging studies to make the diagnosis:
  • Doppler Ultrasound
  • Chest or abdominal X-Ray
  • CT Scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)