What is abdominal aortic aneurysm screening?
An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA), is a condition in which the aorta, the largest artery in the body, stretches and balloons in the belly region. When an abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs, it weakens the walls of the artery and can rupture or leak, causing bleeding into the abdomen. When this occurs, it is a very serious medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
About Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
The abdominal aorta is the main artery that originates in the heart, and is the largest blood vessel in the body. As the lining weakens from age and other risk factors, the artery wall can become thinner and expand. The most common location for an AAA is between where the aorta divides to supply blood to the kidneys and where it divides to supply blood to the pelvis and legs. Approximately two-thirds of all abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in men.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm will most likely develop without causing any pain or other physical symptoms. Most abdominal aortic aneurysms are caused by atherosclerosis, but they can also be caused by injury or infection. There are two ways an AAA can cause internal bleeding: in what is known as a dissection, the layers of the artery wall weaken and split, causing bleeding into the walls of the artery. When the artery wall bursts completely, it is called a rupture. Both events are emergencies and require immediate medical attention.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Details
The screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is painless and non-invasive. An abdominal screening is conducted while the participant lays on their back and the technician uses ultrasound to take images and measurements of your abdominal aorta. Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm is conducted with a painless ultrasound examination of the belly, when the technician will take measurements of the abdominal aorta to look for any abnormalities that might require further examination.
Warning Signs of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Many people with abdominal aortic aneurysm do not experience symptoms; these are the most common warning signs.
- Intense back or abdominal pain
- Rapid pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive sweating
Risk Factors for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Genetic factors
- Gender (males have a higher risk)
Who is this screening for?
All adults over age 50+ OR 40+ and over with risk factors such as immediate family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm or a history of smoking.
*Most people will need AAA screening every three years, but some, depending on risk factors and earlier screenings, may need it annually.