Are You at Risk for Aortic Aneurysm?

Contact Information
(608) 263-8915
(608) 263-0439
(608) 287-2100
An aneurysm is the term for a weakened part of a blood vessel that expands like a balloon. When an aneurysm occurs in the main blood vessel in your abdomen it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
The symptoms of aortic aneurysm are silent and often indistinct, placing patients in sudden, unexpected jeopardy if the aneurysm bursts. But with your doctor's help, it can be treated.
You may be at risk for an aortic aneurysm if you smoke, have high blood pressure, or if one of your family members has had aortic aneurysm disease.
If you are concerned about your risk, the best place to start is with your primary care provider. A regular physical exam may detect an abnormal size aorta, and help your provider determine whether you need further testing.
Risk Factors
Risk factors for aortic disease include:
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Age over 50

Patients with thoracic aortic disease also may have disease in other blood vessels, such as the vessels that carry blood to the head or the heart.




Symptoms of aortic disease are often indistinct, but may include:

  • Back pain
  • Groin pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Testicular pain

If you have these symptoms, you may be at risk and should contact your primary care provider.


Often, however, aortic disease is silent. Surgeons estimate that 20 percent of aortic aneurysms rupture before being discovered. For this reason, UW Health offers a comprehensive monitoring program for patients with potential aortic disease.


Screening for Aortic Aneurysm


Scanning the body for an aortic aneurysm is done using an abdominal ultrasound, a CT scan, an MRI or an arteriography. Your provider will consult with a specialist to decide which test is needed for you.

  • Ultrasound
    Uses sound waves to make images of your aorta and nearby blood vessels. The test measures the size of your aneurysm, is painless and doesn't take long.
  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography)
    Takes a series of X-rays, which then form a picture of the aneurysm on the computer.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
    Uses radio waves made by a strong magnet to create images of your aorta without using X-rays. You may be given a special dye, which makes your blood vessels show up better.
  • Arteriography
    Creates an X-ray image that shows the flow of blood through the aorta and the arteries that branch off of it. This test also uses a special dye to make your blood vessels show up clearly on the X-rays.

Reimbursement for Aortic Aneurysm Screening


If your physician feels you are at risk, and orders screening tests, most insurance companies will reimburse. (Physicians: Note that Medicare does not reimburse for aortic screenings unless there is a payable diagnosis.)