News Release

December 4, 2006

Contact: Maureen McGuire, 860-679-4523

Are You at Risk for an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Medicare Will Cover Life-Saving Screening Test for Men & Women at Higher Risk

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Starting in January, Medicare will cover a one-time ultrasound test for qualified seniors to detect the presence of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) for individuals who have an increased risk for this silent killer.

The test will be offered as part of the “Welcome to Medicare” physical exam – a preventive physical exam that is offered within the first six months of Medicare Part B coverage.

“We’ve waited a long time to see more recognition of this serious, deadly condition,” said James Menzoian, M.D., a nationally prominent vascular surgeon at the University of Connecticut Health Center. “Abdominal aortic aneurysms grow silently over many years and usually have no symptoms whatsoever until it’s too late. The only way to prevent these deaths is to screen at-risk patients and follow them closely,” he added.

To be eligible for the Medicare-covered test, patients must have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Men over age 65 who are smokers now or have smoked in the past
  • Women over age 65 who have a family history of AAA

The screening test, Dr. Menzoian explained, is very simple for patients. “We use ultra sound, it’s a non-invasive, outpatient procedure,” he said. “I strongly encourage men and women who are eligible for this coverage to take advantage of the test.”

What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

AAAs cause about 16,000 deaths every year, according to the American Heart Association. There is no known cause though they are closely linked with smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity – all the factors that are generally harmful to the vascular system.

AAAs are a widening, stretching or ballooning of the aorta – the largest artery in the body -- within the abdomen. The aorta runs from the heart down through the chest and into the abdomen, where it delivers blood to the legs, GI tract and kidneys. Left undetected or untreated, AAAs will grow larger with time and will ultimately burst, causing massive and potentially fatal internal bleeding.

If Dr. Menzoian finds an AAA, there are two different surgical approaches.

“The traditional method involves an abdominal incision and replacement of the diseased portion of the aorta with a synthetic graft material. This approach has been used for many years and is highly successful,” Dr. Menzoian explained.

“A newer option that is now available for selected patients is much less invasive,” he added. “This method involves two groin incisions with the placement of the graft material from within the artery and the graft is placed in position under x-ray guidance. The vascular surgeon will obtain CT scan images before the surgery to decide if the patient has the appropriated anatomical conditions to allow repair of the AAA using the newer method.”

Dr. Menzoian has more than 30 years experience in vascular surgery. Before joining the UConn Health Center in 2005, he was chief of vascular surgery at Boston Medical Center for nearly two decades. At UConn, he works closely with vascular surgeon Michael S. Dahn, M.D., who is also highly experienced and specially trained in minimally invasive techniques.

To make an appointment or for more information, call 800-535-6232.

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