Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 7

7

ABDOMINAL
A RTIC
ANEURYSM
Rethinking the way women
are screened and treated
for a bulging blood vessel
BY HOLLY COOPER FORD

S

low-growing and with few to no
symptoms, an abdominal aortic
aneurysm (AAA) is easy to miss.
It is a bulge that occurs in the
main blood vessel in the body that runs
from the heart through the abdomen.
The longer this bulge is left untreated,
the more likely it is to rupture or burst.
This can cause sudden and often fatal
internal bleeding.

PHOTO BY ELIZABETH MAIRS

A SHIFT IN SCREENING
GUIDELINES

Elizabeth Mairs
is glad she
chose surgery
to prevent
a ruptured
aneurysm.

Ruptured AAAs are the 15th-leading
cause of death in the U.S. Yet according
to a 2017 study in the Journal of Vascular
Surgery, about 43 percent of fatal AAAs
occurred in people who were not eligible
for screening under past guidelines.
Elizabeth Mairs, 69, of Madison
Heights, Virginia, was one of those who
didn't meet the criteria for screening.
Based on her health history, however,
she was clearly at increased risk: She was

a longtime smoker who had been
diagnosed with high blood pressure and
atherosclerotic disease, a buildup of
plaque causing narrowing of the arteries.
There was also good probability that
Mairs had a family history of AAAs. But
still, she wasn't technically eligible for
screening. "To be honest, I didn't know
what it was," she says.
Mairs had been experiencing decreased
kidney function and frequent urination
for more than a year. She was referred to
a kidney specialist, who ordered an ultrasound of her abdomen. Only then did she
learn she had a 5.8-centimeter abdominal
aortic aneurysm.
"The U.S. Preventive Services Task
Force came out with initial screening
guidelines in 2005 that did not recommend screening for women. I believe that
was because so few women were involved
in trials that they were not statistically
able to identify a decrease in death with
screening," says UVA vascular surgeon

VIM & VIGOR WINTER 2020

V1_VVWI2088_06-08_AorticAneurysm.indd 7

9/21/20 4:00 PM



Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 3
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 4
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 5
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 6
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 7
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 8
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 9
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 10
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 11
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 12
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 13
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 14
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 15
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 16
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 18
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 19
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 20
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 22
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 23
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 24
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 25
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 26
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 29
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 30
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 31
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 33
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 34
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 36
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 38
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 41
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 53
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 54
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 55
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - 56
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover3
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2020 - UVA - Cover4
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