What is an Aortic Aneurysm Screening?
An aortic aneurysm can be a potentially life-threatening issue, but a simple screening can catch the problem before it gets that far. What is an aortic aneurysm screening?
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body, carrying blood from your heart, through your chest, and into your abdomen. Although the aorta is incredibly strong, its walls can weaken over time, leading to bulging and stretching as blood is pumped by at high pressure. This ballooning is called an aneurysm. Most aneurysms will never cause further health issues, although they should be monitored by a doctor. If the aortic aneurysm bursts, however, it causes internal bleeding that can quickly become life-threatening.
An aortic aneurysm screening is an exam performed by your doctor to check the health of your aorta and identify aneurysms in their early stages. The exam is done in-office and does not require any preparation. First, your doctor will review your medical history as well as any relevant family history. Then, your doctor will perform an ultrasound to look at the aorta through the abdomen. A gel will be applied to your abdomen, and a wand will be pressed onto your skin to capture images of your aorta. The ultrasound may require a small amount of pressure as the wand is pressed against your abdomen, but it is painless.
Your doctor will then review the images to determine if any areas of the aorta are enlarged. If there are bulges in the aorta, your doctor will discuss treatment options. For most people, monitoring is the only follow-up that will ever be needed, but some aneurysms require surgery to repair the damaged area.
There are several risk factors for aortic aneurysms, but being a male smoker poses the greatest risk. For men between the ages of 65-75 who smoke or previously smoked, an aortic aneurysm screening with ultrasound should be performed at least once. For men between 65-75 who haven’t ever smoked, an aortic aneurysm screening should still be considered if other risk factors are present (such as a family history of aortic aneurysm, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or low physical activity). Screenings are not recommended for most women, but your doctor can determine if one is necessary.
If you are having symptoms of an aortic aneurysm, such as intense pain in the back or abdomen, or if you have risk factors for an aortic aneurysm, talk to your doctor about an aortic aneurysm screening. Our team at Westgate Family Physicians can perform an aortic aneurysm ultrasound and create a potentially lifesaving treatment plan. To schedule an appointment, call (864) 574-0070 or visit our website, WestgatePhysicians.com.