Society for Vascular Surgery Position Statement On Vascular Screenings
Vascular disease is among the leading causes of death in the U.S., yet is generally asymptomatic until a
catastrophic event occurs, such as a stroke or aneurysm rupture. Although preventive screening is
available, millions of Americans at risk for stroke or death from vascular disorders remain unaware of
- Vascular disease can cause potentially lethal aneurysms of the aorta (AAA), the main artery of the body.
More than 15,000 people die each year in the U.S. from rupture of an aortic aneurysm. It is estimated that more than one million people are living with undiagnosed AAA and at least 95 percent of these can be successfully treated if detected prior to rupture.
- Vascular disease can block the carotid arteries to the brain and cause paralyzing strokes. Stroke remains the third leading cause of death in the U. S. Strokes occur in 700,000 American each year with nearly 157,000 people dying annually from this disorder. A large proportion of strokes are caused by plaque in the carotid arteries. In 2006 it was estimated that Americans would pay about $57.9 billion for stroke-related medical costs and disability.
- Vascular disease can impair circulation to the legs, leading to reduced ability to walk and in some cases, leg amputation. Vascular disease in the legs is a major marker for heart disease. One in every 20 Americans over the age of 50 has peripheral arterial disease (PAD). It affects 8 to 12 million people in the U. S. Individuals with PAD suffer a five-fold increased relative risk of a cardiovascular ischemic event and total mortality that is two-three fold greater than those without PAD.
Individuals 55 years of age or older with cardiovascular risk factors such as a history of hypertension,
diabetes mellitus, smoking, hypercholesterolemia, or known cardiovascular disease may benefit from
preventive screening for vascular disease. Ultrasound screenings have proven to be accurate in detecting
vascular disease prior to active warning signs and before a major medical incident such as stoke or sudden
death from aneurysm rupture. Appropriate screening examinations in high-risk individuals include:
- Ultrasound scan of the aorta to identify aortic aneurysms
- Ultrasound scan of the carotid arteries to assess stroke risk
- Blood pressure measurements in the legs to identify PAD and risk of heart disease
With the baby boomer population aging and expected to reach 87 million by 2015, raising public
awareness about vascular disease and screening becomes critical. The Society for Vascular Surgery
believes vascular disease must become a national health care priority and is committed to improving
public awareness and understanding of vascular disease.