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In the News

Better to be safe than sorry: Screenings can bring early detection of vascular disease

Saturday, July 14, 2012

by Alyssa Harvey, The Daily News, originally published on 7/14/2012

Mary Newby was traveling to Las Vegas for a vacation with her siblings in 2003 when she received an unpleasant surprise.

The Bowling Green woman got as far as New Mexico before she became ill enough to seek medical care. She found out she had an aneurysm in her carotid artery that can block blood flow to the brain.

“They found it by chance,” she said.

Newby made an appointment with Dr. Michael Byrne, a vascular surgeon at The Medical Center Heart Institute in Bowling Green, and had surgery to correct her condition.

“I did very well from the surgery,” she said. “I didn’t have any complications.”

In 2005, Newby decided to have a screening to see if there were any other blockages. This time she found out she had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Once again, she went to Byrne for surgery.

Since that surgery, Newby has felt well, but she thought it was better to be safe than sorry. She decided to get her legs screened.

“Sometimes my legs feel kind of funny, like a tingling,” she said.

She had a screening Friday at The Medical Center Health and Wellness Center at Chandler Park. A vascular technologist screens for disorders such as stroke, aortic aneurysm and lower-extremity vascular disease and sends the results to The Heart Institute so they can be evaluated by a board-certified vascular surgeon.

“Vascular screenings are easy and cost-effective tools to identify patients at risk of stroke, amputation or mortality associated with complications of vascular disease,” said Dr. Shane O’Keeffe, a vascular surgeon at The Heart Institute.

A copy of the report is also sent to the patients and their physicians. The cost is $35 per screening or $90 for all three. Members of Senior Health Network, Men’s Health Alliance and The Women’s Center can get all three for $80.

Newby said she didn’t “want any surprises.”

“I’m a preschool monitor. This is my fifth year,” she said. “I want to have everything up and running before school starts.”

Charlotte English, a vascular ultrasonographer at The Heart Institute, does the screenings and said they are important. Men make up the majority of people with vascular disease, and it tends to run in families.

“We take anyone who comes in, but our target age we’re trying to reach is 50 and up,” she said.

Some people don’t go to the doctor until they begin to have symptoms, English said. Some vascular issues don’t even have symptoms, making them even more deadly.

“Screening for (abdominal aortic aneurysm) is especially important because there are no symptoms until a rupture occurs,” she said. “We have a high rate of deaths with ruptured aneurysms.”

English asked Newby to slip off her sandals and lie on an examination table. She put gel on one side of Newby’s neck and slid an ultrasound wand over the area. Black-and-white images began to appear on the screen. The machine whirred as English checked the velocity of the blood flow to her artery. Then she repeated the process on the other side.

“What’s that black thing?” Newby asked as her head was facing the ultrasound screen.

“That’s your artery that we’re looking at,” English explained.

English did an ultrasound on Newby’s carotid artery and did an ankle brachial index, in which blood pressure is measured on the arm and neck. She put gel on the lower and side of each ankle as she examined them.

When screening results aren’t good, English doesn’t let patients leave, calls a doctor immediately and lets the doctor tell her what the patient needs to do. In Newby’s case, English let her leave with a recommendation that she check in with her doctor.

Newby was happy to find out more about her health and plans to talk to a doctor soon about her results.

“I would advise anybody to have (screenings) done,” she said.

The next screening will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 27. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins are taken if space is available. For more information, call 745-0942 or 877-800-3824.

Copyright 2012 News Publishing LLC (Bowling Green, KY)