Medicare to fund ultrasound screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysm

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Medicare is now funding free, minimally-invasive screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), as part of the organization’s Welcome to Medicare physical for beneficiaries that display certain risk factors. The tests are done with minimally-invasive ultrasound technology that is able to detect AAA, a dangerous weakness in the wall of the aorta that is a leading cause of death in the United States and claims the lives of 15,000 seniors annually.

Lawmakers last year approved provisions of the SAAAVE Act (Screening Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Very Efficiently) so that men over 65 who have been smokers at some point during their lifetime can be screened. Also eligible for the test are men and women with a family history of AAA. According to the new rules, only new Medicare beneficiaries will have access to the free tests.

“AAA screening is an important measure that will save thousands of American lives each year,” said vascular surgeon Robert Zwolak, MD, a professor at Dartmouth Medical School and a member of the Society of Vascular Surgery (SVS), which advocated for the legislation. “Our SVS members worked diligently on SAAAVE. These vascular surgeons concentrate their practices on the prevention and cure of vascular disease, and they know the effectiveness of screening in saving lives.”