What Is Vascular Screening?
It is a painless test that checks the arteries of the body for the buildup of fatty deposits, or atherosclerosis. Blood and oxygen is transported through the body by the cardiovascular system, an extensive network of arteries and smaller vessels. Depending on where they occur, any blockages in these arteries can cause sudden and severe illness, even death. Using ultrasound technology to screen the vascular system for signs of narrowing or blockages can help prevent future heart attacks, strokes and impaired blood flow to the legs, arms and abdomen. A ‘screening’ is where a person is checked for signs of a vascular disease although they show no symptoms.
What Does It Screen For?
Typically, a screening will look for signs of the following three conditions:
Carotid Artery Disease
The carotid arteries are the 2 large arteries which supply blood to the brain, located on each side of the neck. Over time, atherosclerosis can form in these arteries and cause narrowing and blockages. If blood becomes completely blocked, it can cause a stroke. The disease does not usually show any symptoms and a stroke may be the first sign of the problem.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
PAD is the narrowing of the peripheral arteries, the blood vessels which are farthest from the heart and include the legs, arms and head. Blockages in these arteries can cause limb numbness, pain, and open sores. If it is severe enough, gangrene and amputation may result. People with coronary heart disease have a 1 in 3 chance of developing blocked arteries in the legs.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. It leads from the heart and continues down into the abdomen where it branches into two smaller arteries to supply blood to the legs. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is when the region of the aorta in the abdominal region swells and may potentially burst and cause heavy internal bleeding or sudden death. Up to 75 percent of people with a ruptured aorta will die before they even reach hospital. Screening is recommended for people showing any risk factors. It is more common in white men over the age of 60; and in those with symptoms of CHD and PAD. Note: It is not related to aneurysms of the brain.
Renal or Mesenteric Arteries
The arteries to the kidneys can be blocked for many reasons and can cause kidney failure and hypertension and heart failure. If the arteries to the bowels and stomach are closed, patients develop belly pains after meals and weight loss. These can be treated with angioplasty and stents.