Texas Health Kaufman Launches Vascular Screening Program
05/19/2010

KAUFMAN, Texas — While many people are aware of the devastating effects of heart disease, most know little about an equally dangerous type of cardiovascular disease.

Sharon Hillgartner (left) and Teresa Grimes
Sharon Hillgartner (left) and Teresa Grimes
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Vascular disease, which includes stroke, peripheral arterial disease, carotid artery disease and aortic aneurysms, causes as much death and disability in the United Staes as heart disease, according to the American Vascular Association. Despite the grim statistics, many people are unaware of the condition and don’t know whether they’re at risk, experts say.

To better identify and treat the condition, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Kaufman has launched a vascular screening program that provides simple and painless screenings. The vascular screenings include a carotid ultrasound, aortic ultrasound, tests for peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and one-on-one discussions with a medical provider to discuss risk reduction. A health care provider obtains a brief medical history, reviews preliminary results and discusses modifiable risks with the patient at the time of their visit.

“Cardiovascular disease often goes undetected — until it becomes a serious medical issue,” said nurse practitioner Sharon Hillgartner, who manages the screening program at Texas Health Kaufman. “These screenings are excellent tools to identify the disease early, when we’re better able to treat it.

“Almost 50 percent of strokes are preventable.”

Vascular disease can affect the arteries, the veins or the lymph vessels. The most common type is peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, which affects about 8 million Americans. Up to 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have PAD. The condition is caused by the dangerous buildup of plaque inside artery walls, which can cause circulation problems and lead to limb loss, stroke, heart attack and sudden death.

“Early diagnosis is critical because people with vascular disease have a much higher risk of heart attack or stroke,” said Teresa Grimes, RT, ARRT, manager of radiology at Texas Health Kaufman. “We’re proud to be able to offer this needed service to the local community. The goal is preventative medicine. We want to catch the disease early, before it has a chance to cause major problems.”

Sharon Hillgartner counsels a patient in the vascular screening program
Hillgartner counsels a patient in the vascular screening program.
Click photo to download hi-res image

During the program’s first screening sessions, clinicians spotted vascular problems in numerous patients. Several cases of untreated high blood pressure were diagnosed, along with cases of sever plaque buildup. The program has also spotted aneurysms, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

“This is further evidence that vascular disease strikes every corner of the community,” Hillgartner said.

The results of the vascular screenings are read by Dr. James Park, an interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Kaufman and Texas Health Dallas, and Dr. Jorge Cheirif, a cardiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Dallas.

“We’re bringing these tests together under one roof, with clinicians who know about the risks and prevalence of this devastating disease,” Grimes said. “We’re also trying to educate the community about this health risk. With this two-pronged attack, we hope to improve the lives of people in our community.”

The vascular screenings are offered once a month at Texas Health Kaufman. For more information or to make an appointment, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355), or go to TexasHealth.org/Kaufman.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Kaufman
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Kaufman is a 91-bed acute-care, full-service medical center serving Kaufman and Henderson counties and the southern part of Dallas County since 1979. The hospital's services include women’s services, wound care, diagnostic imaging, cardiac rehabilitation and pain management services. Texas Health Kaufman, an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, was recently recognized with the Pathway to Excellence hospital designation for distinction in nursing by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and is a Level IV Trauma Center. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Kaufman.