Cincinnati—Starting in 2007, new Medicare Part B health insurance enrollees will be eligible for a preventive abdominal aortic aneurysm screening.
University of Cincinnati (UC) vascular surgeons say having this simple test could easily detect a life-threatening disease for a large number of Medicare-eligible patients.
“Many people are unaware that they have an abdominal aortic aneurysm and that they are at risk for rupture and death,” says Joseph Giglia, MD, interim director of UC’s vascular surgery division. “Men over 60 who have ever smoked—some of the primary recipients of Medicare—are at a much higher risk for having the condition than the average person.”
According to the American Vascular Association, more than 15,000 Americans die of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms each year. Men over 60 who smoke and have high blood pressure are at the greatest risk.
“Preventive screening exams to detect a bulge in the aorta,” he adds, “could quite literally mean the difference between life and death for some people.”
The human vascular system is a complex arrangement of vessels comprising the arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart and distribute it throughout the body, and veins, which return blood to the heart for reoxygenation.
Vascular problems occur when fat and cholesterol (plaque) build up on the artery walls. As plaque increases, the arteries harden and become narrow. In the aorta, this can cause the vessel to stretch and weaken, forming a bulge in the vessel wall. If that bulge (aneurysm) ruptures, it can rapidly result in death.
Upon completion of a physical examination, which is mandatory for new Medicare patients, male patients who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime and anyone with a family history of vascular disease can request the abdominal aortic aneurysm screening exam.
The test is done using ultrasound, a technology that uses sound waves to create a picture of organs and other structures inside the abdomen. If vascular problems are found, the patient may be referred for additional screening exams to determine the best course of treatment.
The UC Surgeons group is now accepting patient appointments for this one-time screening at various clinics located throughout Cincinnati. Appointments must be made in advance by calling (513) 241-9929, and patients will be required to show a current Medicare insurance card.
For more information on vascular diseases, visit www.netwellness.org, a collaborative health-information Web site staffed by Ohio physicians, nurses and allied health professionals or the Society of Vascular Surgery’s Web site, www.vascularweb.org.