Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Now Covered by Medicare
November 15, 2007
This year legislation passed that included Medicare patient coverage of a one-time ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). Patients at risk for AAA can now receive the benefit as part of their "Welcome to Medicare" physical.
An aneurysm is the weakening and bulging of a blood vessel. AAA is caused by a weakened area in the main vessel that supplies blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It is most frequently seen in males over 60 with risk factors that include tobacco use and family history of AAA.
According to the Society of Interventional Radiology, abdominal aortic aneurysm takes the lives of approximately 15,000 American's each year, most without warning or symptoms. In the past 30 years, the occurrence of AAA has increased threefold.
Medicare will pay for the AAA screening for beneficiaries who are at risk (has a family history of AAA or is a man age 65 to 75 who has smoked at least 100 cigarettes in his lifetime). The exam must be conducted within the first 6 months of enrollment in Medicare.
"The abdominal aortic aneurysm screening exam is a painless and safe ultrasound exam that takes approximately 30 minutes to perform," said Kim Turner, Radiology Director at Franklin Memorial Hospital. "Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to obtain images of the inside of the body, so
there is no exposure to radiation. Ultrasound also allows the radiologist to see motion, such as blood flow."
If an aortic aneurysm is found, the referring doctor may prescribe medicine to reduce the risk of rupture. In some cases surgery is necessary.
Anyone at risk for AAA, should ask their primary care doctor about the screening.
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