Vascular Health Screening Can Save People's Lives
|J. Antonio G. López, MD, FACC, FAHA, FACP, FNLA
Director, CIMT Program
Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho is pleased to offer Vascular Health (Carotid Intima-Medial Thickness or CIMT) Screening to residents of Boise and the surrounding area. At the University of Wisconsin Health’s Vascular Health Screening Program the first year Vascular Health Screening was available, 70 percent of patients screened were found to be at a higher risk for stroke or heart disease than predicted by other health screening tests.
What is vascular health screening?
Vascular health screening at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center involves a unique test that is recommended by the American Heart Association. This test provides patients with a benchmark of their heart and vascular risk.
Who should participate in this program?
This screening program is for people age 40-70 years old without known heart disease. Vascular health screening improves assessment of cardiovascular risk, particularly in individuals who have:
- Family history of heart disease
- Cholesterol Disorders
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Or who smoke cigarettes
If you are interested in better understanding your heart disease risk using vascular health screening, talk with your primary physician or provider. Your physician or provider can order the vascular health screening tests for you, and can do so by calling 208-367-DOCS.
“It’s exciting to know that our program discovers problems in people before they have a heart attack,” says J. Antonio G. Lopez, MD, FACC, FAHA, FACP, FNLA, FASH Director, CIMT Program, Saint Alphonsus Medical Group Heart Care.
Interpreting the vascular health screening test
Completing the vascular health screening test will take less than one-half hour. After you have completed the test, a report will be sent to your primary physician or provider. You will also be sent a copy of the report.
Using the results of the vascular health screening test will provide additional information regarding your cardiovascular risk. This may lead to personalized guidance concerning exercise, diet, smoking cessation, and control of your risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease.
What happens during a vascular health screening?
Measurement of carotid artery intima-media thickness (CMIT) and carotid plaque detection
During this safe, non-invasive test, you will be asked to lie flat on a bed for approximately 30 minutes. A small amount of gel is applied to your neck and sound beams are used to look at the thickness of your carotid arteries. This is called a high-resolution carotid ultrasound and is recommended by the American Heart Association for appropriate patients.
The carotid arteries supply blood to your brain. As the walls of the carotid artery become thicker, your risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases. Ultrasound of your carotid arteries provides a “window” to see how much blood vessel damage you already have in many vessels in your body including your coronary or “heart” arteries. This is not a simple carotid duplex ultrasound scan to find blockages – it involves sophisticated scanning and measurement techniques.
How does Saint Alphonsus’ Vascular Health Screening Program compare to a heart scan?
CIMT measurement and carotid plaque detection offer several advantages over electron beam or multi-detector computed tomography (EBCT or MDCT), commonly called “heart scans.” CIMT does not involve exposure to radiation, is less expensive than a heart scan and is a proven predictor of cardiovascular risk. Because the screening tests used at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center are proven predictors of cardiovascular risk, they are recommended by the American Heart Association.
Although heart scans may be useful in some patients, there is very little data supporting their effectiveness in individuals under 50 years old, in women, or in non-Caucasians. Heart scans also do not predict the risk of stroke. Only ultrasound CIMT and carotid plaque detection predict the risk of both heart disease and stroke, in both men and women and across a wide range of ages, as well as within different ethnic groups.