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October 1, 2008 > Get Screened and Save a Life: Your Own

Get Screened and Save a Life: Your Own

Washington Hospital, Fremont Bank & Health Diagnostics Team Up to Sponsor Free Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening

What if you were only moments away from a life-threatening health crisis and didn't even know it? And what if a simple screening could save your life?
If you have one or more of the following risk factors, it's possible that you could be at risk for a potentially deadly condition called abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA):
* High blood pressure
* Diabetes
* High cholesterol
* Obesity
* Emphysema
* Family history of AAA
* Male gender

AAA is a silent killer that affects the largest and most important artery in the body - the aorta - which is the main blood vessel leading away from our heart, carrying oxygen to most of the entire body.

When a bulge develops in the abdominal aorta, between the breast bone and the belly button, it is known as an abdominal aortic aneurysm. In a majority of cases, the condition doesn't cause any pain or symptoms, but it remains a ticking time bomb.

"If the aorta weakens, the artery will begin to bulge and expand over time," explains Ash Jain, M.D., board-certified cardiologist and co-medical director of Washington Hospital's Peripheral Vascular Program. "If this weakening goes beyond a certain point, there's a high risk of rupture. And once a rupture occurs, mortality is very high. At this point, it is impossible to save the patient most of the time."

This is why, Dr. Jain says, it's so vital for AAA to be diagnosed before a burst occurs. But how do you know if you have an aneurysm if there are no symptoms?

On Saturday, October 18, Washington Hospital, Fremont Bank and Health Diagnostics will team up to offer a free screening to community members who may be at risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The test is safe, painless and noninvasive and uses ultrasound technology that detects and accurately measures the size of an aneurysm to determine if treatment is needed.

"After we perform the ultrasound testing to look for the presence of an aneurysm, patients have the opportunity to speak with a physician who will explain if they are at risk for a abdominal aortic aneurysm," he says of the screening.

He advises that participants arrive in the morning with an empty stomach so that the physicians can better view the ultrasound images.

This life-threatening condition is not rare. The Society for Vascular Surgery estimates that as many as 1 million Americans are living with an undetected AAA. Each year, nearly 200,000 are diagnosed, but another 15,000 die before their condition can be treated.

Dr. Jain estimates that of every 100 individuals screened during the free screening at Washington Hospital, three to four will be diagnosed with AAA that requires prompt treatment.

"We believe that if we can address this problem in the community, we can reduce the number of people that will die from undiagnosed abdominal aortic aneurysms," he emphasizes. "I would like people to know that if the condition is diagnosed at the right time, it can be successfully treated. Secondly, people may have this condition without being aware of it and it may be causing back and stomach problems, which could have any number of causes. Early diagnosis and treatment is an important goal because it will allow us to save lives and also improve symptoms for those experiencing them."

Get screened

Both Dr. Jain and John Thomas Mehigan, M.D., a board-certified vascular surgeon and co-medical director at Washington Hospital, will be conducting the screenings from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B located at 2500 Mowry Ave.

The AAA screening is not for everyone. Only people who are at risk of having the condition are eligible to participate. Community members who have a family history of AAA or have one or more of the risk factors mentioned above are encouraged to register for the screening.

If you have the screening and an AAA is detected, the bulge will be measured to determine the need for further treatment.

For more information about Washington Hospital's free AAA screening, visit the hospital's Web site at, click on "The Community," select "Community Programs & Events," and choose "Screenings."

Free Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening

Date: Saturday, October 18
Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium Rooms A & B, Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont
Registration required: Call (800) 963-7070.
A public service provided by:
Washington Hospital Healthcare System
Fremont Bank
Health Diagnostics

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