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Commercial vascular screening services are widely available.
These types of community health screenings typically are offered by private companies, sometimes
in partnership with hospitals. The screenings may be offered in vehicles similar to mobile blood
banks or provided in schools, churches, or community centers. These tests generally look for
problems in your cardiovascular (heart and blood) system that could be associated with
a heart attack or stroke.
Typical screening tests include the following:
Stroke/carotid artery ultrasound measures blockages in the arteries to the brain.
This test is recommended for people with risk factors for vascular disease like high blood
Echocardiogram ultrasound shows the heart’s structure and beating function.
This is generally not recommended as a screening test for people without symptoms of heart problems
or high blood pressure.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound measures the size of the major artery that is
located in the stomach area. This test is recommended 1 time only for men aged 65 to 75 years who
have ever smoked.
Electrocardiogram uses electrodes attached to the chest to evaluate the electrical
activity of the heart. Screening for atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) is
typically mentioned. This test is generally not recommended as a screening test for patients without
symptoms of heart trouble.
Ankle brachial index measures peripheral artery disease
(“hardening of the arteries” in the legs) using blood pressure cuffs on the arms and
above the ankles. This test is useful for vascular disease screening in the legs for some
Vascular screening tests can be helpful for identifying problems early, before they become
serious. However, studies of these tests often have confusing results, and some physician groups
offer conflicting advice about the usefulness of these tests. Detailed recommendations about these
tests are found on the websites listed on this page.
Although the tests may identify problems you are not aware of, the tests can have what are known
as false-positive results, meaning that the test suggests there is a problem when there is not one.
When this happens, more tests may be ordered, causing unnecessary additional testing, which may be
costly and involves some risk.
Report symptoms—such as shortness of breath, leg pain, difficulty walking, or chest
pain—to your doctor, who can recommend specific, appropriate tests. If possible, maintain a
relationship with your doctor and follow his or her advice about how often to have a checkup. Your
doctor can screen for diseases that can be prevented, assess your risk of future medical problems,
encourage a healthy lifestyle, and update needed vaccinations.
Diseases that are commonly screened for include
Breast cancer and cervical cancer in women
High blood pressure
Prostate cancer in men
In most cases, the recommendations based on screening test results are to increase healthy
behaviors. No matter your age, sex, or risk factors, it is important to eat low-fat foods, including
plenty of fruits and vegetables; to not smoke; and to exercise regularly.
American Academy of Family Physiciansfamilydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/staying-healthy/healthy-living/preventive-services-for-healthy-living.printerview.all.html
National Library of Medicinewww.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/healthscreening.html
US Preventive Services Task Forcewww.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institutewww.nhlbi.nih.gov
American Heart Associationcirc.ahajournals.org/content/122/25/2748.full.pdf
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on
JAMA’s website at jama.com. Many are published in English and Spanish.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has
completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none
Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; National Library of Medicine; US
Preventive Services Task Force; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American Heart
Association; Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Correction: This article was corrected on September 24, 2013, to correct the Sources
Topic: Vascular Medicine
Sugerman DT. Vascular Screening. JAMA. 2013;310(12):1302. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.277868