Tuesday, 5 March 2013 tests - Heart, Aorta, Artery, Stroke/Carotid

Update: 21/3/13 Today had my Abdominal Aorta screened for Abdominal Aorta Aneurism (AAA) with Life Line Screening. Result: 2.2cm (top of aorta) to 1.8cm (bottom of aorta) was normal. The pressure of the scanner on the bottom of my rib cage was intense! I've still got a mild bruise a day later. The Sonographer was not very fluent in English and used technical language for the parts of the body that I didn't understand and had to question him on the meaning of the terms.

But it was worth it to know I've not got any Abdominal Aorta Aneurism ... a potentially fatal condition.

Next up, I'm checking for Bowel Cancer Screening which is offered at 60 years for free on the NHS (I'm 56 so not eligible for 4 years).

5th March 2013: Through the post I was targeted by to take the Vascular and Heart Rhythm tests for £149. I'm checking with my doctor / online to see if these tests are worthwhile for me and whether they are available on the NHS.

Care Quality Commission on Life Line Screening and CQC report.

UK National Screening Committee has advice on private company screening; 3 page brochure.

For another £60 (£209) I could have opted for these extra tests 1) Complete Lipid Panel test* 2) Type 2 Diabetes test** 3) Coronary Heart Disease Risk Analysis (Framingham chart uses 1) & 2) data but QRISK is replacing it in the UK).  LifeLineScreening Price List  here.

*: available from my NHS Doctor for free

Vascular and Heart Rhythm
£149Reg. £280
SAVE £131!

1) Overview of Heart Rhythm Screening (Atrial Fibrillation) 

This test uses electrocardiogram readings to detect irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation) at the time of screening. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke 5-fold.

How the screening is performed:

You will be asked to lie on your back on the examination table and electrode stickers will be placed on your collar bones or wrists and ankles. A small device then connects the electrodes to the electrocardiogram machine which then takes your reading.

2) Overview of enlarging of the Aorta Test (Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm) 

This is an ultrasound test used to measure the size of your aorta, your main blood vessel, in the abdomen. Over time, the aorta can become enlarged and if it swells too much it could rupture.

How the screening is performed:

You will be asked to lie on your back on the examination table and the Sonographer will move a transducer over your abdomen to measure the size of your aorta.

Scans are normally offered via the NHS only when symptoms become present - although currently the NHS is piloting an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm screening programme [say LifeLineScreening] [what is AAA?], which is scheduled to be fully rolled out across England in 2013 [to over 65s ONLY]  . 

What about men under 65? The NHS programme is offered to men aged 65 and over because 95 per cent of ruptured AAA occur in this group. There is no evidence to show that inviting men who are younger than 65 for screening as part of a population-based screening programme would deliver major benefits [a matter of economics/health benefits??]6,000 die of ruptured AAA in UK, ie 300 with AAA under 65 die each year.

The risk of developing an AAA also increases through close family history. If you have a close relative - brother, sister or parent - who has, or has had, an AAA you can receive an ultrasound scan at an appropriate age under existing NHS procedures and should speak to your GP to discuss a referral. 

3) Overview of the Artery Hardening Test (Peripheral Arterial Disease) 

This test uses ultrasound and blood pressure measurements to check for peripheral arterial disease (hardening of the arteries) in the lower extremities. Peripheral Arterial Disease increases your risk of heart attack or stroke by 2 to 6 times and affects 1 in 6 people over the age of 55.

How the screening is performed:

Pressure cuffs will be placed around your upper arms and ankles and a small ultrasound device is used to measure the systolic blood pressure in your limbs.

4) Overview of Stroke Risk Screening (Stroke/Carotid Ultrasound) 

Wikipedia | National Institutes of Health | NHS Choices | Stroke Prevention
This screening uses ultrasound to look inside your carotid arteries for buildup of fatty plaque. Excess plaque build in your carotid arteries can restrict the flow of blood to your brain and cause a stroke. 

How the screening is performed: 

You will be asked to lie on your back on the examination table. The Sonographer will then apply some gel to your neck and use a transducer to create images of your carotid arteries in order to assess the rate of blood flow within them.

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