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Doctors Urge Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening for Men Over 65
Story Updated: Jun 26, 2014
(NewsUSA) - Ray Territ, 75, was playing golf when his feet started feeling abnormally heavy. After his legs started to hurt, Territ made an appointment with his Kaiser Permanente family physician, Lisa Tran, M.D., in Southern California.
When Dr. Tran reviewed Territ's medical history in Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect, one of the world's largest private electronic health records, she quickly identified that he was missing a screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm. Dr. Tran advised Territ to get tested, and he agreed.
His decision saved his life.
The ultrasound showed that Territ had an abdominal aortic aneurysm twice the size of those that normally require surgery. The technician immediately sent the results to Kaiser Permanente heart surgeon Majid Tayyarah, M.D. That same day, Dr. Tayyarah stood in front of Territ and explained the urgent need for surgery, and the deadly consequence, if the aneurysm were to rupture.
"Dr. Tayyarah said, 'I'll take care of you,'" recalled Territ. "When he said that, I felt good. And we went into the operation room, had the operation, no problems."
Territ is fully recovered and back on the golf course. "Dr. Tran and Dr. Tayyarah -- they're my heroes."
What Is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in the aorta, which -- if ruptured -- can cause serious bleeding that can quickly lead to death. Most aortic aneurysms don't cause symptoms. Sometimes a doctor finds them during exams or tests done for other reasons. People who have symptoms notice pain in the abdomen, chest, or back.
Who Should Be Screened?
Those at highest risk are men over the age 65 who smoked tobacco and men or women over 60 who have a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms. Both Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage cover a one-time abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, if you are at risk and get a referral from your doctor.
The Role of Electronic Health Records
Kaiser Permanente's HealthConnect now features a number of proactive screening reminders, including one for abdominal aortic aneurysm, which was being added at the time Dr. Tran diagnosed Territ's condition. Today, electronic alerts automatically appear at each doctor's appointment for members who fit the criteria. A Kaiser Permanente study, published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery, found that these electronic screening alerts reduced the number of unscreened at-risk men by more than 50 percent.
For more information about abdominal aortic aneurysm, visit kp.org. To see a video about Ray Territ's story, visit kp.org/carestories. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk with your physician.