Know Your Risk
Talk to your physician about AAA screening. If you don't have a primary care physician, find one here:
FIND A PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN
An abdominal aortic aneurysm, also called an AAA, is called a silent killer because it doesn’t have any recognizable symptoms, and a sudden rupture is usually deadly. The walls of the aorta (the largest artery in the body) become weakened and balloon out. If undetected, it can grow and become stressed to the point of rupturing, which can cause life-threatening uncontrolled bleeding.
To help prevent this tragic outcome, New Hanover Regional Medical Center encourages screenings for those at risk. If you are found to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), your doctor can closely monitor it and recommend treatments that could include medication, lifestyle changes, and/or surgery.
Who Should be Screened
If you are over the age of 50 and have smoked, or have a family history of AAA, talk with your doctor about being screened.
AAA risk factors include:
- Age (older than 60)
- Male (four times greater than females)
- Smoker (More than 100 cigarettes in your lifetime)
- Family history
- Genetic factors
- Hyperlipidemia (elevated fats in the body)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Other conditions may cause AAA, including genetic disorders of connective tissue, congenital syndromes, trauma, infection aortitis, and giant cell arteritis.
The following are the appropriate ages for screening recommended by the Society of Vascular Surgeons and NHRMC:
• Men: One-time ultrasound screening for AAA is recommended for all men at or older than 65 years. Screening men as early as 55 years is appropriate for those with a family history of AAA.
• Women: One-time ultrasound screening for AAA is recommended for all women at or older than 65 years with a family history of AAA or who have smoked.
AAA Screening Process
In addition to a complete medical history and examination, your physician may order an ultrasound. The ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues and organs. This is a simple, pain-free, non-invasive procedure.
AAA Screening Costs
Medicare offers a one-time, free abdominal ultrasound screening for at-risk individuals.
Those considered at-risk are:
- Men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime
- Men and women with a family history of AAA
Many insurance providers cover all or part of the screening costs. Without insurance, the out-of-pocket cost is $65.25. Those who qualify and do not have the resources to pay for the screening may be eligible for assistance through the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation in memory of Roger S. Kueffer.
The results of your AAA screening will be shared with your referring physician, who will explain them to you and discuss treatment options, if needed. If an AAA is detected, treatment will often involve careful monitoring. Larger AAAs may require surgery. In these cases, your doctor will refer you to a vascular surgeon at NHRMC.
Preventing Aneurysms and Minimizing Risk
Talk with your doctor about the best way to prevent aneurysms. If you smoke, you will be advised to quit. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, maintaining a normal blood pressure and keeping your weight down will help. Managing blood sugar levels is also very important for diabetics.
AAA Screening Locations
New Hanover Regional Medical Center and NHRMC Physician Group offer AAA screenings at the locations listed below. Screenings are also available at other medical and radiology practices in the region. Talk with your physician about scheduling an appointment at the location that is right for you.