Carolinas HealthCare System

Heart Diagram with normal and large abdominal aneurysmAn abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) occurs when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward. A screening is available to detect a potential AAA.

Medicare covers a free, one-time vascular ultrasound screening during the "Welcome to Medicare" physical offered to new enrollees during the first 12 months of the Medicare enrollment period.

Who is eligible?

If you are covered by Medicare and meet the following criteria, you are eligible for a free screening.

  • You have at least one of the following risk factors:
    • Family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm.
    • You are a man age 65 to 75 and have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in your life.
  • You are also eligible if you have never had an AAA ultrasound screening paid for by Medicare.

How do I schedule a screening?

Your primary care doctor must order the screening for you during the "Welcome to Medicare" physical. Call or visit your doctor to schedule your physical.

What happens at a screening?

An aneurysm can be found though an abdominal ultrasound. An ultrasound machine creates images that allow the organs in the abdomen to be examined for irregularities. The ultrasound is done in a cardiovascular testing lab.

Treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysm

Our team of vascular surgeons will recommend the right treatment for you depending on the size of your aneurysm. Smaller aneurysms might not require treatment, but your doctor may order regular testing to monitor any growth.

For larger aneurysms your surgeon will recommend one of two options:

  • During an open surgical repair, the doctor makes a large cut in the abdomen. The aneurysm is removed and replaced with a tube called an aortic graft, connecting the aorta together again to restore blood flow.
  • An endovascular repair is a minimally invasive procedure, meaning a smaller incision and a shorter hospital stay. A catheter, a thin wire, is placed in your femoral artery in the groin. The doctor gently feeds the catheter through the aorta to the aneurysm. A stent graft is deployed to form a wall in the aorta to repair blood flow. The aneurysm will eventually shrink around the stent graft.

For more information, visit the AAA screening page on Medicare's website.