AAA screening receives boost from Senate

November 8, 2005

The U.S. Senate last week passed a budget reconciliation bill that includes an amendment to fund a one-time ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms.

The U.S. Senate last week passed a budget reconciliation bill that includes an amendment to fund a one-time ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms.

The U.S. House of Representatives is working on its version of the budget for fiscal year 2006. The current language in the House bill, which is still in committee, does not contain any reference to AAA screening, according to Ed Rissing, a principal in Rissing Strategic and a consultant to the Society of Interventional Radiology.

The House bill could be brought to the floor some time this week, Rissing said. Any differences in the two bills would then be worked out in a House-Senate conference. After conference, the legislation goes to both houses of Congress for a final vote and then to the President for approval or veto.

"Once an abdominal aortic aneurysm has ruptured, the chances of survival are low, with 80% to 90% of all ruptured aneurysms resulting in death. These deaths can be avoided if an aneurysm is detected and treated before it ruptures," said Dr. George Fueredi, chair of SIR's government affairs and healthcare policy committee. "This bill ensures those patients at highest risk, those over 65, can receive AAA screening, which can lead to early treatment and ultimately prevent death."

Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended screening for AAA but only in men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have ever smoked. Congress's fiat most likely will follow the USPSTF recommendations, Rissing said. Reimbursement through Medicare will be set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

SIR, working in conjunction with the National Aneurysm Alliance, a coalition of medical specialty societies, foundations, and industrial partners, had petitioned the USPSTF to expand its screening recommendation. SIR wants screening available for all male nonsmokers and women with a family history of AAA.

The Society for Vascular Surgery recommends screening all men aged 60 to 85, women aged 60 to 85 with cardiovascular risk factors, and men and women older than 50 with a family history of AAA.

The National Aneurysm Alliance has been lobbying for AAA screening for several years. The ultrasound screen can cost between $45 and $75. Medicare does not pay for preventive medicine unless Congress requires it.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) sponsored the S.1932 bill amendment, which has half a dozen bipartisan cosponsors.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

AAA screening concept gains ground but faces funding challenge

AAA screening recommendation comes up short

New generation of stent-grafts curbs migration

Endovascular AAA produces better mortality rates than open surgery