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Q: Should I be screened for an aneurysm if I have a family history of aneurysms?

Aneurysm screening is a procedure to check whether the aorta is dilated or stretched out. The test is an ultrasound scan, which is a painless procedure.

In an aneurysm, the aorta dilates over time, weakening the walls of the blood vessel. Eventually, in some cases, it can rupture. When that happens, the person has only minutes to get to the hospital for a chance of survival. The aneurysm won’t cause any symptoms until it bursts, so the only way someone can know they are at risk is through screening.

Anyone over age 65, or anyone who is over 50 and smokes, should be screened. And because this condition can be hereditary, if you have a relative who has had an aneurysm, you should be checked as well.

Fortunately, if an aneurysm is caught early, there is effective treatment. You can help keep it from growing by controlling your blood pressure. And if intervention is needed, a vascular surgeon can fix the problem by inserting a stent. This can be done in a simple surgery, and the patient usually goes home the next day.

Robert Connaughton, MD
Vascular Surgeon