Heart & Vascular
Vascular Screening Program Vascular Screening Program

Vascular Screening Program

Vascular screening is a simple, quick, painless test to detect silent vascular diseases that can lead to serious health problems and death.

What is Vascular Disease?

Vascular disease prevents blood from flowing properly through the circulatory system. It involves the arteries, which carry blood away from the heart to other parts of the body; and it involves the veins, which carry blood back to the heart. Often, vascular disease has no obvious signs or symptoms. For this reason, it is known as a silent disease.

Healthy blood vessels have smooth, supple inner walls that expand and contract, allowing blood to flow freely through them. When plaque — a substance comprised of calcium, fat, cholesterol, cell waste, and fibrin — begins building up inside the vessels, it can narrow and harden the vessels (a condition known as atherosclerosis) and reduce or prevent blood from flowing through them. Vascular disease can occur in the vessels supplying blood to your heart (coronary arteries), including the aorta — the largest blood vessel in the body. It also can occur in the blood vessels in your neck (the carotid arteries) that supply blood to your brain. Vascular disease also can affect blood vessels in your arms and legs.

Approximately 30 million Americans are at risk for serious problems from vascular disease, including:

  • Aortic aneurysm, which is diagnosed when the main artery in the chest or abdomen weakens and becomes enlarged. When an aortic aneurysm is left untreated, it can break open (rupture) and cause death or permanent problems. In the United States, Aortic aneurysm is the 10th leading cause of death in men age 55 years and older
  • Carotid artery disease, which is diagnosed when primary vessels that supply blood to the brain become blocked with plaque
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD) occurs when plaque blocks blood circulation to the legs. PAD often is painful and disabling. When it is left untreated, PAD can make it difficult for wounds on the legs to heal properly. PAD also can lead to gangrene, sometimes resulting in amputation of the toes, feet, and legs. People with PAD are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared with someone without the disease. As many as 30 million people age 70 years and older in the United States have PAD. People with diabetes are especially prone to PAD
  • Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked because of a clot or plaque that has built up too much or become dislodged. Stroke also can occur when a weak vessel in the brain bursts

Each of these conditions has serious health implications. For example, peripheral artery disease can lead to disability, amputation, and death. Stroke and aneurysms also can cause long-term disability and death.

What Causes Vascular Disease?

Researchers believe there usually is more than 1 cause for vascular disease. Studies show that plaque begins developing during childhood, with blockages forming in adulthood. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a family history of circulatory problems and atherosclerosis can contribute to vascular disease. Smoking also can increase the odds for vascular disease.

You are at risk and should be screened for vascular disease if you:

  • Are age 65 years or older; you should be screened at a younger age if you have a family history of stroke, aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, or coronary artery disease
  • Have heart disease
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high cholesterol levels
  • Have diabetes
  • Are obese
  • Have a family history of circulatory problems, including abdominal aortic disease, heart disease, and atherosclerosis
  • Have a history of smoking

Finding Vascular Disease Early Can Prevent Serious Health Problems and Save Your Life!

The good news is that vascular disease can be treated effectively, especially when it is found in its early stages. With a painless, 10-minute screening, you can help prevent strokes, aneurysms, and peripheral arterial disease.

St. Luke’s offers three non-invasive screenings for carotid artery disease, peripheral arterial disease and abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Registered vascular technologists perform the state-of-the-art ultrasound screenings in an accredited vascular laboratory. Our board-certified vascular surgeon will review your results.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for your vascular screening, please call St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Center today at 484-526-1000. No physician referral is needed!