In 2015, Mary Lou Kueffer lost her beloved husband, Roger, following the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Like most patients, Roger had no idea he had an aneurysm, as an AAA usually develops with no symptoms until it ruptures. Sadly, Roger was one of the 85-90% of patients who did not survive AAA rupture. Yet if he had known before rupture that he had a large AAA, repair could have been undertaken with little risk. This dramatic difference in outcome is the reason it’s so important to detect AAAs when they are small and unruptured.
Mary Lou vowed to honor Roger by increasing awareness of AAA, and was the catalyst for creating a program to assure that at risk patients were screened for AAA with a simple, painless ultrasound exam.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center proudly partnered with Mrs. Kueffer to help bring awareness to the issue. The team publicized AAA screenings in local publications, on news programs, at health fairs, on social media and at community events. Our efforts were recognized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which invited our team, including Mrs. Kueffer, to present our initiative at the international medical conference.
I’m excited to say that, a year after the program’s inception, we are helping to make a difference.
In 2016, more than 2,000 members of our community were screened for AAA. Of those who were screened, more than 100 had an aneurysm of at least 3 centimeters in diameter. That means they need to have a doctor monitor the aneurysm regularly. Larger AAAs and those which are expanding rapidly often require immediate surgery to prevent rupture.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center encourages all those at risk for AAA to be screened to prevent rupture. Symptoms are not usually pronounced, so those at risk are usually unaware they have an AAA. However, distinct health factors can help determine who is at risk.
If you have one or more of the risk factors, talk with your doctor about AAA screening. Primary risk factors are:
- Older than 55
- Family history
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
If a physician recommends screening, the doctor will provide a referral. Screenings are available at many convenient locations throughout the region, and The NHRMC Foundation, in memory of Roger Kueffer, offers assistance to those who don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay.
In 2017 and beyond, NHRMC and Mrs. Kueffer will continue to educate the community about the dangers of AAA. It’s one of many ways we are Leading Our Community to Outstanding Health.