Talk With Your Health Care Provider About Screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Patient Brochure

Patient brochures and fact sheets for health care providers explain the USPSTF recommendations for several cardiovascular diseases.

This patient brochure provides information about screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Select to download print version ( PDF file PDF version - 1.47 MB ; Plugin Software Help).

What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

An aneurysm ("AN-yuh-rizm") is a bulge in a weakened blood vessel. An aneurysm can lead to serious problems.

Your heart pumps blood to the lower part of your body through a large blood vessel called the "abdominal aorta." If an aneurysm develops here, it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Figure shows the heart and major arteries of the cardiovascular system. The abdominal aorta, shown in detail, has a large bulge in it-an aneurysm.

Is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm serious?

  • Most people who have aneurysms don't have any symptoms.
  • A large aneurysm can burst. This is very serious, and can even result in death.
  • If you have a large aneurysm, you may need surgery. Finding large aneurysms with screening before they burst may make the surgery and recovery easier.

Who should be screened?

Men between the age of 65 and 75, who have EVER smoked cigarettes, should be screened. Other people do not benefit as much from screening.

How is the screening done?

Screening is painless and quick and is usually done at a radiology clinic visit. An ultrasound is used to create a picture of your abdominal aorta using sound waves. The width of your abdominal aorta is then measured to determine whether there is a bulge.

What happens after screening?

Your next step depends on whether the test finds a bulge in the aorta. If you have a small or medium bulge, your provider may recommend "watchful waiting," which means having your aneurysm re-checked periodically.

Figure shows a medical technician performing an ultrasound on a patient.

Normal (No bulge)
Congratulations! You don't need to be screened again.

Figure shows the abdominal aorta with no bulge.

Small bulge (3.0-3.9 cm)
You should be re-checked in 2-3 years.

Figure shows the abdominal aorta with a slight bulge.

Medium bulge (4.0-5.4 cm)
You and your provider will discuss what to do next. You should probably be re-checked in 6 months.

Figure shows the abdominal aorta with a medium-sized bulge.

Large bulge (more than 5.4 cm)
You and your provider will discuss what to do next. You may need surgery.

Figure shows the abdominal aorta with a large bulge.

Smoking increases your risk of having an aneurysm. If you are smoking now, the most important step you can take is to stop smoking.

Ask your doctor for help with quitting.

Here are some questions to ask your provider:

___ Should I have this test?
___ How would I benefit from having this test?
___ Would I be harmed by this test?
___ Will aspirin interfere with my other medications?
___ How do I get ready for this test?

Do you have other questions for your provider? Write them down here.

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Current as of June 2009
Internet Citation: Talk With Your Health Care Provider About Screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Patient Brochure. June 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/prevention/screening/aaapatient.html