WHAT IS ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM (AAA)?
This life-threatening condition is a weakness in the wall of the aorta—the largest artery in the body—and exists in an estimated two million Americans. AAA rupture usually occurs without any prior symptoms. If undetected, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm has an 80% mortality rate.
WHO’S AT RISK?
“Males over the age of 65, individuals who have smoked, who have a history of hypertension, and certainly anyone with a family history of AA should strongly consider getting a screening,” according to Rudy’s physician, Dr. Richard DeMasi, a vascular specialist at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. “The test is simple, quick, and painless, and it can save thousands of lives each year.”
Ruptured AAs are one of the leading causes of death among the elderly in the United States—killing approximately 15,000 Americans each year. As a known cause of death in the US, AA is about equal to AIDS or several forms of cancer.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
If found before they rupture, 95% of AAs can be successfully treated with a minimally invasive procedure to implant an abdominal aortic stent graft.
Nearly all AAs can be detected through a simple screening process, which doubles patient survival rates over four years. If you or someone in your family is over the age of 65, make sure that they get screened.
Ultrasound examination of the aorta is a highly accurate, painless, and completely safe way to detect AAA. The test typically costs approximately $100, but Medicare now offers a free, one-time, ultrasound screening benefit for qualified seniors as part of their Welcome to Medicare Physical Exam.
WHO QUALIFIES UNDER MEDICARE?
Men who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their life, and men and women with a family history of AA qualify for the one-time screening. The exam must be completed within the first six months of Medicare eligibility. The free exam is only available to new patients entering the Medicare system.