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Published on May 01, 2011

Vascular Disease Screening: Early Detection Can Save Your Life

by Mary Kate Coghlan

In Brief:

  • According to the Society of Vascular Surgery, vascular disease is among the leading causes of death in the United States, yet generally has no symptoms until a catastrophic event occurs, such as a stroke or aneurysm rupture. 
  • Vascular disorders affect this intricate system of blood vessels, and can range from life-threatening emergencies to chronic, disabling diseases.
  • Early detection is the most effective form of treating a vascular disease. There are several simple screening tests that detect vascular disorders, all of which are non-invasive and painless. 

According to the Society of Vascular Surgery, vascular disease is among the leading causes of death in the United States and affects the same number of Americans as cancer. Vascular disease, however, generally has no symptoms until a catastrophic event occurs, such as a stroke or aneurysm rupture.

“Even though preventative screenings are available for vascular disease, it is still widely unrecognized and undiagnosed because people remain unaware of their risk,” says Marat Goldenberg, M.D., Crozer-Keystone vascular surgeon. “In most cases, with early detection, vascular disease can be treated effectively without intervention.”

The vascular system of the human body is made up of veins and arteries, collectively called blood vessels. Vascular disorders affect this intricate system of blood vessels, and can range from life-threatening emergencies to chronic, disabling diseases.

For example, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm or a traumatic vascular injury requires immediate lifesaving surgery. Carotid artery disease, if undetected and untreated, can lead to a disabling stroke. And peripheral artery disease (PAD) affecting the arterial circulation in the legs may require effective treatment to prevent the loss of a limb.

Early detection is the most effective form of treating a vascular disease. There are several simple screening tests that detect vascular disorders, all of which are non-invasive and painless. Screening tests can include:

  • Carotid Scan – consists of a quick carotid duplex ultrasound scan and a blood pressure check for severe hypertension. These exams can detect the most frequent causes of stroke  – significant internal carotid artery stenosis.
  • Aortic Scan – an ultrasound scan of the aorta, the body's main artery. The scan can tell how big the aneurysm is and when it needs treatment.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Scan – can quickly determine if there is any impairment in the circulation to the limbs. The exam can identify blockages in the leg arteries and tell how severe the blockage is and whether treatment is needed.
  • Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) – The primary diagnostic test that is universally indicated for all patients at high risk for PAD. The test compares blood pressure in your ankle to blood pressure in your arm, and can show how well blood is flowing in your limbs.

“Screening is useful in the elderly population and high-risk groups of younger individuals,” says Gregory Domer, M.D., chief of the Division of Vascular Services at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Anyone over the age of 70 has a higher risk of developing vascular disease. Although anyone over the age of 55 who has a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, a habit of smoking, high blood, high cholesterol, and a family history of vascular and circulatory problems should also consider screening.”

For information about Crozer-Keystone’s Vascular Services, and to find a physician who is right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit www.crozerkeystone.org.

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