Oct. 24, 2014 | More than 200 Arkansans signed up to be screened for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) at UAMS on Oct. 4. Often referred to as a silent killer, many people with the condition don’t experience symptoms. Screenings for those who are high risk is the best way to detect an AAA.
“The aorta is the main vessel in the human body,” said Matthew Smeds, M.D., vascular surgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine. “An aneurysm causes a dilation in the aorta and if it gets large enough, it can rupture.”
When that happens, Smeds says, there is a very significant chance of death because of the bleeding. Many patients with a ruptured aneurysm do not survive emergency treatment, making AAAs one of the leading causes of death in men older than 60.
UAMS recently offered a free screening in partnership with AAAneurysm Outreach, a national nonprofit organization that raises awareness of abdominal aortic aneurysms and promote screenings.
An AAA can be detected through an ultrasound screening on the abdomen, similar to a pregnancy ultrasound. It takes only a few minutes.
“During the ultrasound, they can measure the size of the aorta to see how big it is,” Smeds said. “If you’re at a certain point, and we find an aneurysm, we will follow up. If the aneurysm gets to a certain size and you’re at a risk of rupture, then we can fix it surgically.”
This is the first year UAMS has hosted the screening with AAAneurysm Outreach.
“A total of 240 people signed up. That’s double the amount we thought it would be for our first year,” Smeds said. “We identified four aneurysms.”
Smeds said in addition to screening for AAAs, they also asked people about symptoms for other vascular diseases including peripheral vascular disease and carotid artery disease.
“If they had symptoms for these diseases, we screened for those as well,” Smeds said, “We identified 12 with peripheral vascular disease and one with carotid artery disease.”