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Medicare Part B Coverage Available for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screenings

Posted on: 2016-06-08 » in: Dr. Reid's Articles

Medicare Part B Coverage Available For Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screenings

Medicare allows a minimally invasive screening that detects abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) as part of their “Welcome to Medicare” physical. This free service is a one-time AAA screening to qualified patients enrolling in the Medicare system.

Why Is This Important?

Every year 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with AAA – often with no symptoms or warning signs. AAA refers to a weakening in the wall of the large artery that takes the blood from the heart to the body (aorta). Caught early, there are a number of treatment options, but if the AAA ruptures, it can be fatal. AAAs claim the lives of 15,000 people annually. The decision to fund these screenings may save thousands of lives every year. 

Who Is At Risk?

AAA affects 6 to 9% of men over 65 and is the 10th leading cause of death for men over 55. In addition, smokers are at risk. Although most know that smoking can contribute to lung and heart disease, few smokers know they are damaging their aorta. AAAs give patients little to no warning that the pressure is building, which can lead to a rupture and internal bleeding that is often fatal. Risk factors also include family history, heart disease, high blood pressure and poor diet.

Who Is Eligible?

Medicare will pay for one-time only preventive ultrasound AAA screenings for at-risk beneficiaries including:

  1. Men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime
  2. Individuals with a family history of AAAs
  3. Individuals recommended for screening by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.


What Is Involved?

AAA can be painlessly detected using an ultrasound or CT scan. When the aneurysm is detected before it ruptures, patients can be treated with a high rate of success using either open surgery or endovascular aneurysm repair, a minimally invasive procedure in which a tube-like sleeve called an “endovascular stent graft” is placed inside the aorta. The blood flows through the sleeve, thereby decreasing pressure on the aneurysm.

What Are The Symptoms?

Many people do not experience any symptoms, but pain may be reported, often occurring in the abdomen, back or chest area. If you are concerned about AAA or are experiencing this type of pain, contact your doctor for an evaluation. If you have already been diagnosed with AAA, contact Mid Illini Surgical Associates to learn more about the available treatments.

How Is It Treated?

One new treatment option offered by MISA is the EXCLUDER Bifurcated Endoprosthesis. This endovascular repair seals off the aneurysm by placing an endovascular graft inside the diseased aorta, creating a new path for blood flow. The endovascular graft then remains inside the aorta permanently.Thus, the blood stops putting pressure on the aneurysm, and the risk for rupture is diminished.

Scott Reid,D.O., and Brian Heywood, M.D., F.A.C.S., specialize in vascular, endovascular and general surgery.

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