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Aortic Centers Combat 'Silent Killer'

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 6, 2011

An abdominal aortic aneurysm, the most common type of aortic aneurysm, occurs when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward. Risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and genetic links. A ruptured abdominal aneurysm can be deadly, with a mortality rate of more than 50%.

Aneurysms can develop slowly over many years and often have no symptoms. If an aneurysm expands rapidly, tears open, or blood leaks along the wall of blood vessels, symptoms may develop, such as swelling of the stomach. Anyone can develop an aneurysm, but it is mostly seen in men over 60 with the key risk factors. "It's silent, until it gets to a certain size and ruptures," Kasper said.

Several years ago, the government approved an initiative that enables Medicare patients to get free ultrasound screenings that could detect potential aneurysms, Kasper says. Still, doctors and patients must communicate about the need for monitoring of patients at risk for aneurysms, he adds.

"A vast majority of aneurysms are asymptomatic and found when a test is done for another reason, and the patient comes in and has a CAT scan or ultrasound, and the radiologist looks at it," Kasper said.

The importance of timely interaction for a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm is reflected by mortality rates, says Michael Dalsing, MD, a vascular surgeon with Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, which also initiated a rapid response system for vascular care at IU Health.

Under the rapid response approach, the hospital can review CAT scans on a secure website before the patient is transferred from the emergency department, he says.

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1 comments on "Aortic Centers Combat 'Silent Killer'"


Sheila Arrington (10/6/2011 at 3:31 PM)
This is an excellent article. I founded Aneurysm Outreach Inc (AOI) in late 1999 and it became the first of its kind non-profit to the U.S. aortic aneurysm arena in 2000. AOI's mission is to educate an unaware public and assist in saving lives by creating partnerships to provide free AAA ultrasound screening programs for those most at risk. AOI's goal is to take its Louisiana-based program to a national level. AOI hopes that the family members and friends of those affected by AAA will choose AOI as their charity of choice and support its screening efforts as well as its long-term goal of funding AAA genetic research