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Dr. Rachel: Abdominal aortic aneurysm, the silent killer

NEW ORLEANS -- There is a free screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at the LSU Healthcare Network at 3700 St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans.

Visit the LSU Healthcare Network website for information about registering.

More than 3 million Americans find out they have an abdominal aortic aneurysm every year, but what is it? Dr. Claudie Sheahan tells us "An abdominal aortic aneurysm is abnormal dilation of the aorta. The aorta is a main artery in the body that brings blood to all the organs and when the aorta balloons out and actually forms the shape of a balloon, it's called an aneurysm, and an aneurysm is a concern because it can rupture."

Who is at risk? "People who are at risk are generally men more than women, but it can happen to women as well over 60. People smoking even 100 cigarettes in a lifetime, you're at risk. Genetics. If you have a relative, in particular, a first-degree relative with an aneurysm, you're in at high risk."

Screening is usually an abdominal ultrasound. It's done just like you would for a pregnancy, and it's painless. The probe goes over your abdomen, and it takes about a minute or two. They can look right away and see if you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.