A Silent Fatal Condition is More Common Than Many Think

Michael Stahl made a special trip to OSF St. Francis Medical Center to have his Abnormally large Aorta checked out. Something doctors caught by accident, something that likely saved his life.

“About four or five years ago I was at a chiropractor and had an ex-ray,” Stahl said. “Routine x-ray because I had a back that was giving me some trouble.”

The doctor saw something odd in the x-ray and sent him to a specialist to be examined further.

“That’s when we discovered that I had an aneurysm,” Stahl said. “I had no signs of it at all.”

Interventional Radiologist, Dr. James Swischuk, said that seems to be the case for many people with the abnormality. The Aorta is the largest artery in the body that moves high pressured blood from the heart to the lower part of the body.

“Normally it’s about two centimeters or about an inch in diameter and we begin to worry about it once it increases in size by one and a half to two times,” said Swischuk.

Dr. Swischuk said the aorta carries a great deal of blood throughout the body, so when it ruptures, it’s life threatening.

“Patients don’t find out about it until it’s ruptured and once it’s ruptured, really 80 to 90 percent of patients won’t make it,” he said.

Of the patients that make it to surgery, only half will survive.

“The remainder of the patients will have a significant rehab and negative impact on their quality of life,” said Swischuk.

But the radiologist says the solution is simple. Figure out your risk factors, and get checked.

“The main risk factor is really those patients that know of a family member that have had an aneurysm,” Swischuk said.

Other risk factors include smoking, and high blood pressure.
If you are a male 60 years and up, you should go in for testing. Experts say 90 percent of patients with an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm don’t know they have it and all it takes is a simple ultrasound.

“It’s incredibly easy to interpret, it’s very reliable, it’s painless,” said Swischuk.

Stahl said, “you just lay down, you almost can fall asleep and it’s almost like getting a massage on your stomach, it’s very simple.”

Dr. Swischuk says although the abnormality is more common in men 60 and up, women with a family history of aneurysms should get checked too.

Central Illinois Radiological Associates and the Peoria Surgical Group are holding free a screening this weekend for those at risk.

If you would like to get tested, you must call 800-813-4033 to set up an appointment in advance. It could save your life.

For more information on AAA, log on to www.findtheaaanswers.org.