February 13, 2006

Congress passed legislation providing Medicare coverage for a one-time ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) as part of the budget reconciliation bill, which president Bush signed into law late last week.

Under this legislation, the Social Security Act will be amended to provide coverage for the test under part B of the Medicare program, Medtronic officials said. The coverage begins in 2007.

The condition claims 15,000 lives per year, most times without warnings or symptoms, Medtronic said. The company has been providing free screening for this condition since 2004.

AAA occurs in the aorta, the body's largest blood vessel. As the walls of the aorta weaken, the artery begins to bulge and eventually the aorta will burst, causing fatal internal bleeding. Approximately 1.2 million people are living with AAA conditions in the U.S., Medtronic says. Only 15 percent are ever diagnosed and less than half of those are treated, the company added.

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