1. 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.
2. 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.
3. PAD Scan-A Doppler exam for PAD 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.
Almost everyone in this country knows about heart disease--the importance of prevention, detection, and treatment and the huge impact it has on people's health. But they know very little about vascular disease outside the heart.
That's despite the fact that many vascular diseases can produce strokes, which are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Stroke is also the leading cause of disability in the U.S., and more than $70 billion is spent annually on the care of stroke patients, according to the American Vascular Association (AVA).
An estimated 20 to 30 million Americans are at risk for various vascular diseases, including stroke, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), carotid artery disease and aortic aneurysms. And according to the AVA, vascular disease outside the heart causes almost as much death and disability as heart disease, and more than any cancer.
This became evident during one of the AVA's first ever free national screening studies which was held at 17 sites throughout the U.S. in May 2002. The study yielded some disturbing results: Thirteen percent of people screened had signs of vascular conditions, including blocked carotid arteries, aortic aneurysms and PAD. Most people who were screened didn't know they had a problem and had never been tested for vascular disease.
Similiarities Between Heart and Vascular Disease
It's important to understand that vascular disease outside the heart does occur in a variety of different locations -- the carotid arteries in the neck, the aorta, the arteries in the legs and arms and even disease in the veins. Most of these problems are very similar to heart disease in the sense that they are atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) of the arteries. It just occurs in different arteries than the coronary arteries to the heart.
It's also important to understand the potential severity of these diseases. Just like heart disease, each one of those problems has consequences that can be fatal or can be very serious and lead to hospitalization and severe disability long term.
The Most Deadly Types of Vascular Disease
Carotid artery disease, PAD and aortic aneurysms are probably the three most serious non-cardiac vascular diseases that afflict Americans and are certainly the ones that produce the most potential for death and disability.
Carotid artery disease typically occurs when the carotid arteries, the main blood vessels to the brain, develop a buildup of plaque caused by atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries. When the buildup becomes severe, it can cause a stroke, which can be fatal or permanently disabling. However, if carotid artery disease is detected and treated, doctors can prevent most strokes.
Aortic aneurysms occur when the wall of the aorta, the main artery in the chest and abdomen, progressively weakens. This causes a dilation of the vessel. If not diagnosed and treated, the aneurysm will grow larger and eventually rupture. According to the AVA, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is the tenth leading cause of death in men over age 55.
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