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JAMA Patient Page
December 10, 2019

Screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

JAMA. 2019;322(22):2256. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.19338

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently published recommendations on screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

The aorta is a very large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The abdominal aorta is the part of the aorta that travels through the abdomen (belly). An aneurysm is an abnormal enlargement of part of a blood vessel. In an adult, the abdominal aorta is normally about 2 cm in diameter; an AAA is defined as a part of the abdominal aorta that is more than 3 cm in diameter.

Risk factors for AAA include being male, older, or a smoker or former smoker; having high blood pressure; or having a family history of AAA. The biggest concern with an AAA is that it can rupture and cause major internal bleeding, which can be fatal. A ruptured AAA is a surgical emergency. Most AAAs do not cause symptoms until they rupture, which is why they are so dangerous. The larger an AAA is, the higher chance it has of rupturing. Therefore, large AAAs should be surgically repaired before they rupture.