DEAR ABBY: Two years ago, my husband's sister had a sonogram to check for a possible gynecological problem. What the doctor discovered was an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) that was large enough for mandatory surgery.
Her doctor told her to notify any siblings that they, too, should have a sonogram. The unexpected result of my husband's examination stunned us all. Bill, too, had an abdominal aortic aneurysm!
Bill was monitored for one year, until the aneurysm surged significantly. The operation followed a month later. The doctor's insight about the genetic factor probably saved Bill's life.
Abby, please tell your readers that this type of aneurysm is hereditary. If a parent or sibling has had an aortic aneurysm, then all siblings and offspring should be examined. We have been advised that our son must be tested when he reaches age 50 and should continue to have a sonogram every five years thereafter.
The cause of aneurysms is unknown, although several risk factors -- notably hypertension, smoking and atherosclerosis -- could possibly contribute to their development and growth. They have been found to occur more frequently in males than in females. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are silent and usually deadly if not discovered before they rupture. Ruptures are preventable with continued use of ultrasonography and CT scanning.
I hope my letter will be a red alert to anyone whose family has a history of aneurysms. Check with your doctor. Don't put it off! And physicians who are unaware of this should consider including "family history of aneurysms" on their new patient forms. It could save lives. -- BARBARA AND BILL GOLDSMITH, SAVANNAH, GA.
DEAR BARBARA AND BILL: I'm sure your warning will serve as a wake-up call to anyone who has a family history of aortic aneurysms. And another plus is the fact that the test is painless and non-invasive. Thank you for a letter that is sure to be a lifesaver.