News | July 26, 2007

Screening Aids Early Detection of Vascular Disease

July 27, 2007 - Vascular disease frequently shows no symptoms until it is at such an advanced stage that it is difficult or impossible to treat. Narrowing of the carotid or lower extremity arteries and enlargement of the main artery in the abdomen (abdominal aorta) are some examples of this "silent" disease.

Non-invasive ultrasound testing has been used to quickly and accurately detect these vascular problems, and "screening" events have become popular tools for early diagnosis and to increase public awareness about these problems.

"Most screenings programs involve multiple locations on a single date and do not explore the local community impact of screening," said Jon A. Hupp, M.D., The Vascular Institute at Anne Arundel Medical Center, Annapolis, Md.

Dr. Hupp and a team of researchers evaluated the economic and community impact of the Dare to C.A.R.E (DTC) program: a large, single center, continuous vascular screening and education program in Annapolis. Over 12,000 people were tested between mid 2000 and 2006. Details of the program were published in the August 2007 issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

"The program is free and anyone over 60 years of age and people over 50 with vascular risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes were encouraged to attend," said Dr. Hupp.

Participants ranged from 40 to 95 years of age (median 65 years). They attended two hours of lectures and then underwent vascular screening that included completing a risk factor questionnaire, blood pressure testing, carotid duplex ultrasound, abdominal aortic ultrasound, and foot pulse and pressure determination.

Researchers noted that almost half of the participants showed some degree of vascular disease; those with advanced age and risk factors were more likely to have more significant disease. Diabetes alone doubled the prevalence of disease in all age groups. Many study participants had risk factors including: past smokers, 51.3 percent; current smokers, 7.3 percent; diabetes, 10.6 percent; hypertension, 46.7 percent; high cholesterol, 49.4 percent; and prior myocardial infraction, 11.9 percent.

The most severe level of disease, requiring intervention or very close monitoring, was found in 2.2 percent of participants. More moderate disease, requiring close monitoring and maximal risk reduction, was found in 6.9 percent of individuals. More than 340 hospital vascular cases were identified in DTC patients in the first five years of the program.

"This program is a unique, ongoing, vascular screening program which detects silent vascular problems, but also educates and promotes risk reduction in patients with all stages of vascular disease," said Dr. Hupp.

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