Published on July 08, 2019

Vascular screening: Early detection is key

Thierry MomplaisirHow healthy are your blood vessels?

You may not know, since even the most severe vascular disease—such as an aneurysm—has few, if any, symptoms. That’s why screening for these abnormal conditions of blood vessels can be so crucial.

“Early detection and treatment can help prevent these diseases from becoming disabling or life-threatening,” says Thierry Momplaisir, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Mercy Catholic Medical Center.

A range of vascular screenings is available at Mercy Catholic Medical Center’s Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia campuses. Three of them are described below, all of which are painless, non-invasive procedures:

  • Carotid artery ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create images of your carotid arteries, which carry blood to your brain. It also shows how quickly blood flows through these arteries if they’re narrowed by plaque. Left untreated, narrowed carotid arteries may trigger a stroke.
  • Abdominal ultrasound. This test also uses sound waves to look for an aortic aneurysm—a bulge or ballooning that occurs due to a weak wall in the largest artery in your abdomen. An aneurysm can grow progressively larger and burst if it’s not treated. That can cause dangerous bleeding, which can be deadly.
  • Ankle-brachial index test. This test checks for signs of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply blood to your limbs. The test compares the blood pressure in your ankles to both arms. If your blood pressure is lower in your ankles, you may have PAD.

PAD can cause pain and numbness when walking and sores that won’t heal. Treatment can help.

Should I be screened?

Your doctor may advise you to get screened for a vascular disease if you:

  • Are 65 or older
  • Have diabetes
  • Have a family history of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack or stroke
  • Have a family history of an aortic aneurysm