AAA screening checks you for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) using an ultrasound. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an aneurysm in a major coronary artery that runs through the abdomen. AAA develops slowly and often with few noticeable symptoms. Detecting an AAA early is critical, because the larger an AAA grows, the more likely it is to rupture and cause additional complications.
Who needs AAA screening?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men who have a history of smoking should receive a one-time screening for AAA between the ages of 65 and 75. Men with a family history of AAA should be screened at age 60. Other people with a family history of AAA, male or female, should talk to their physician about having a scan done. Patients with a strong family history of AAA are often scanned at least 5 years before the age when the relative had the AAA.
What are the symptoms of an AAA?
Often, abdominal aortic aneurysms will not show any symptoms. Sometimes the patient may feel pain near their naval or a pulsing in the abdominal area. If there is a rupture, a number of other symptoms may present themselves. These include:
- Intense abdominal or back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
How is an AAA screening done?
AAA screening is done with a simple, painless ultrasound scan. There is no radiation and no risk to the patient. You will be asked to fast for four hours before your appointment, and you can drink water in moderation.
How is an AAA treated?
The treatment of an AAA depends on the size and location of the aneurysm. Generally, small AAAs are monitored via CT or ultrasound scans every 6 to 12 months. Patients will be advised to quit smoking, manage their blood pressure, and lower their cholesterol. Larger AAAs are usually treated surgically.