Screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Screening for AAA, also a benefit of Medicare

 Recommendation statement from U.S. Preventative Services Taskforce (USPSTF)

  • The major risk factors for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) include age (being 65 or older), male sex, and a history of ever smoking (at least 100 cigarettes in a person's lifetime). A first-degree family history of AAA requiring surgical repair also elevates a man's risk for AAA; this may also be true for women but the evidence is less certain. There is only a modest association between risk factors for atherosclerotic disease and AAA.
  • Screening for AAA would most benefit those who have a reasonably high probability of having an AAA large enough, or that will become large enough, to benefit from surgery. In general, adults younger than age 65 and adults of any age who have never smoked are at low risk for AAA and are not likely to benefit from screening. Among men aged 65 to 74, an estimated 500 who have ever smoked—or 1,783 who have never smoked—would need to be screened to prevent 1 AAA-related death in the next 5 years. As always, clinicians must individualize recommendations depending on a patient's risk and likelihood of benefit. For example, some clinicians may choose to discuss screening with male nonsmokers nearing age 65 who have a strong first-degree family history of AAA that required surgery.
  • For most men, 75 years may be considered an upper age limit for screening. Patients cannot benefit from screening and subsequent surgery unless they have a reasonable life expectancy. The increased presence of comorbidities for people aged 75 and older decreases the likelihood that they will benefit from screening.
  • Ultrasonography has a sensitivity of 95 percent and specificity of nearly 100 percent when performed in a setting with adequate quality assurance. The absence of quality assurance is likely to lower test accuracy. Abdominal palpation has poor accuracy and is not an adequate screening test.
  • One-time screening to detect an AAA using ultrasonography is sufficient. There is negligible health benefit in re-screening those who have normal aortic diameter on initial screening.

Free AAA Screening

You may be eligible for a free one-time Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm screening as part of your Welcome to Medicare physical.

If you would like to schedule an ultrosound screening for an AAA yourself, contact the Peripheral Vascular Lab at 919-966-4582.  If not covered by Medicare, or other insurance, the cost is currently $143.