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 Medicare AAA Screening Benefit

(US) Medicare offers a one-time, free screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) to qualified seniors as part of its Welcome to Medicare physical. This physical must be conducted within the first 12 months of enrollment in Medicare. AAA may be severe enough to cause death if not treated. Men who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their life, and men and women with a family history of AAA qualify for the Medicare screening.

The Vascular System
The vascular system comprised of veins and arteries - allows life-giving blood to flow to vital organs. Blood flows freely when this system is open. The aging process results in arteries that tend to thicken, become stiffer, and more narrow. To maintain an active lifestyle during senior years, there cannot be weak areas or blockages in the vascular system. Medicare recognizes the importance of good vascular health and offers a free screening process to check for one of the vascular diseases, AAA. Qualified seniors are eligible for a one-time AAA ultrasound screening as part of their Welcome to Medicare physical.

What is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
AAA is an enlargement or “bulge” that develops in a weakened area within the largest artery in the abdomen. The pressure generated by each heartbeat pushes against the weakened aortic wall, causing the aneurysm to enlarge. If the AAA remains undetected, the aortic wall continues to weaken, and the aneurysm continues to grow. Eventually, the aneurysm becomes so large, and its wall so weak, that rupture occurs. When this happens there is massive internal bleeding, a situation that is usually fatal. The only way to break this cycle is to find the AAA before it ruptures.

Are there symptoms?  
Most people do not feel symptoms. An AAA is often detected when tests are conducted for other, unrelated reasons. Those persons with symptoms describe a pulsing feeling in their abdomen, an unexplained, severe pain in their abdomen or lower back, or pain, discoloration, or sores on their feet (this is a rare symptom).

Safe treatment for AAA?  
AAA can be safely treated or cured with early diagnosis. Nearly 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with AAA annually; approximately 15,000 of these are fatal.

What is the screening procedure?  
Medicare offers an ultrasound screening that is a painless, safe, and accurate way to detect AAA.

What if the screening indicates an AAA?  
See a vascular surgeon. They are the only physicians treating vascular disease today who can perform all the treatment options available, including medical management, minimally invasive endovascular angioplasty and stent procedures, and open bypass surgery. Only a vascular surgeon who offers all treatment modalities can provide care that is most appropriate to the condition.

Posted June 2010


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