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Aortic Aneurysm (cont.)

Exams and Tests

Aortic aneurysms are often discovered during an X-ray, ultrasound, or echocardiogram done for other reasons. Sometimes an abdominal aneurysm is felt during a routine physical exam. If this is the case, your doctor will do a medical history and physical exam.

When an aneurysm is suspected or diagnosed, it is important to:

  • Pinpoint the location of the aneurysm.
  • Estimate its size.
  • Determine how fast it is growing and whether surgical treatment is needed.
  • Determine whether other blood vessels are involved.
  • Detect the presence of blood clots or inflammation.

Tests to help find out the location, size, and rate of growth of an aneurysm include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound. Ultrasounds help your doctor know if your aneurysm is growing. If your aneurysm is large, you may need an ultrasound every 6 to 12 months. If your aneurysm is small, you may need one every 2 to 3 years.
  • Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), which are used if a view more detailed than an ultrasound is needed. This is important when information is needed about the aneurysm's relation to the blood vessels of the kidney or other organs. Your doctor needs this information especially before surgery. CT is used to watch the growth of a thoracic aortic aneurysm.
  • Echocardiogram, an ultrasound exam used to study the heart. A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) or a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) may be done to diagnose thoracic aortic aneurysm.
  • Angiogram. An angiogram can help determine the size of the aneurysm and the presence of aortic dissections, blood clots, or other blood vessel involvement.

One of the most important goals of testing is to estimate the risk that an aneurysm may burst, or rupture, and to compare the risk of rupture to the risks of surgery. If an aortic aneurysm is detected, tests such as abdominal ultrasound can be used to closely follow any change in the size or other aspect of the aneurysm and help measure the risk for rupture.

Early Detection

Your doctor may recommend an abdominal ultrasound screening test if you are a man who is:

  • Age 65 to 75 and has ever smoked.1
  • At least 60 years old and who has a first-degree relative (for example, father or brother) who has had an aneurysm.2

The recommendation does not apply to women or nonsmoking men, because they are less likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Screening is not thought to be beneficial for these groups.

People who have Marfan's syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or another condition that puts them at risk may benefit from screening.

Click here to view a Decision Point.Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Should I Get a Screening Test?

Your doctor may recommend screening tests for a thoracic aortic aneurysm if you have a close relative (parent, brother, or sister) who has had a thoracic aortic aneurysm.

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