An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) is a condition in which weakening of the lining in the aorta causes the aorta to expand in diameter. Abdominal aortic aneurysms pose a threat because they are usually silent until a medical emergency occurs.

The abdominal aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body and the main artery that originates in the heart. As the lining weakens from age and other risk factors, the vessel wall thins and expands. The most common location for an AAA is between where the aorta divides to supply blood to the kidneys and where it divides to supply blood to the pelvis and legs.

Who should have an aortic aneurysm screening?

The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) with ultrasonography in men ages 65 to 75 years who have ever smoked.

The USPSTF recommends that clinicians selectively offer screening for AAA in men ages 65 to 75 years who have never smoked rather than routinely screening all men in this group. Factors that may place you at increased risk for AAA include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Emphysema
  • Genetic factors
  • Gender (males have a higher risk)

What to Expect

While lying flat on the exam table with your abdomen exposed a warm gel will be placed on your skin. The sonographer will then position an ultrasound transducer on your abdomen and use varied amounts of pressure to obtain the desired images. You may be asked to roll from side to side and breathe deeply, holding your breath while images are being taken.

Exam Preparation

Wear a comfortable, loose-fitting, two-piece outfit. Fast for four hours prior to your screening and make sure the meal you eat four hours prior to your screening is a light one. If you are thirsty you may have half a cup of coffee or tea and a moderate amount of water. Take any daily medication as prescribed.

If you are diabetic and are not comfortable fasting for four hours, please limit yourself to a "diabetic meal" (piece of toast, one cup of any kind of juice and a half of a cup of coffee or tea). If you are in doubt, please follow your diabetic care plan.

Test Results

In emergent cases, or if requested by your referring provider, a preliminary report of findings will be provided immediately following the examination. Final reports are typically available in the morning of the next business day.