Aortic Aneurysm Screening (Thoracic and abdominal)
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in your aorta, your largest blood vessel. The aorta carries fresh oxygen and nutrients from your heart to your major organs and to smaller blood vessels, which distribute blood throughout your body. This bulge is caused by a weakening in your aorta wall. It occurs most often in the abdominal area, so it is usually called an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA. When it occurs in the upper part of your aorta, it is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm, but this is much less common.
As the bulge grows, the aorta wall becomes thinner. This makes it more likely that your aorta could leak or rupture, spilling blood into your body. Because the aorta supplies so much blood, a rupture can be deadly.
If you are at risk for AAA, you should discuss it with your doctor. Simple screening tests determine if you have an aortic aneurysm and assess your risk of rupture.
Physical exam: Your doctor may be able to detect an aortic aneurysm by pressing on your abdominal wall or listening through a stethoscope.
Ultrasound: For this safe, simple and painless test, an ultrasound technician passes a wand over your abdomen, using sound waves to create a computer picture of your aorta.
CT scan: A CT scan of your abdomen uses multiple X-rays to create a very clear picture of your aorta. Many AAAs are discovered when you have a CT scan for another reason.