Picture of Health
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page HE02
Abdominal aortic aneurysms, like the one pictured here, are bulges in the main artery leading from the heart. These can result from the weakening of arterial walls, which occurs in people with atherosclerosis. Ruptures of such aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming more than 15,000 lives each year, according to the American Vascular Association.
Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal reported last week that deaths from such ruptures, which mainly occur in older men and often come without warning, could be dramatically reduced through noninvasive screening. The British researchers found that an initial ultrasound screening at age 65 to measure the size of the aorta would virtually rule out aneurysm disease for life in 95 percent of men; the rest would either be monitored for changes in the size of the aorta or treated immediately.
For decades, aortic aneurysms have been successfully treated with major surgery to replace the diseased part of the aorta with a synthetic graft. A less-invasive repair involving the insertion of a catheter through a groin artery was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999.
-- Gregory Mott
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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