Harvard Men's Health Watch

Abdominal aortic aneurysm: When you need this one-time test

Family history or past smoking both point to higher risk for this potentially fatal condition.

How many "lifesaving" medical tests have you been offered lately? One frequently marketed to older men is an ultrasound of the abdominal aorta, the large artery below the heart that feeds the lower body. A bulging weak spot there—an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)—could eventually rupture, and that is usually fatal.

"It's a silent killer, in that most people who have aneurysms don't know it," says Dr. Marc Schermerhorn, chief of the division of vascular and endovascular surgery at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "For those who are at risk for them, it makes sense to do an ultrasound so they can be detected and treated."

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