Abdominal aorta aneurysm screening now covered by Medicare - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Abdominal aorta aneurysm screening now covered by Medicare

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YAKIMA, Wash -- As of January 1,2007, Medicare begin covering cost of the triple A test, which looks for evidence of aneurysms in the abdominal aorta.

The test has been available for over three decades, and uses ultrasound, but until recently, wasn't covered by Medicare.

Aneurysms in the abdominal aorta, especially ones larger than five centimeters, can be fatal.

Dr David Stepanek, a Radiologist at Yakima Memorial Hospital says, anyone with a family history of abdominal aneurysms, or men over the age of fifty who have a history of tobacco, are at the greatest risk.

He compares this type of aneurysm to a lining of an inter-tube that is weakened over time -- and explodes.

"The mortality on the average rupture is over fifty percent," said Stepanek. "More than half of those patients will end up dying once the aneurysm begins to leak."

With Medicare now covering the cost of the test for at risk patients, preventative screening could save the life of most patients. Once detected, surgery is one of the most successful options. The risk of dying during surgery to repair the aorta is less than two percent.