Vascular Health Screening
At UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, the Vascular Health Screening Program helps physicians identify patients with atherosclerosis - hardening and cholesterol build-up in the arteries that can lead to heart attacks and stroke - before it can be detected with blood or stress tests.
Vascular health screening involves a painless ultrasound test that does not require undressing, exercising or drawing blood.
If you have any questions about the Vascular Health Screening Program, please call us at (608) 263-9014. Physicians interested in vascular health screening can access more technical information, including sample images, in our For Health Professionals: Vascular Health Screening section.
Vascular health screening at UW Health is a carotid ultrasound test that is recommended for select patients based on national and international guidelines. It provides patients with a benchmark of their heart and vascular disease risk.
We have performed more than 2,000 vascular health screening studies and are a national leader for this technique. The sophisticated scanning and measurement techniques used in the screening were pioneered by UW Health Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Care staff.
This program is for people between 40 and 70 years old without known heart disease. Vascular health screening improves assessment of a patient's risk for cardiovascular disease, particularly in individuals who smoke and/or have a family history of:
- Heart disease
- Cholesterol disorders
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Diabetes mellitus
It is most useful if it will affect your decision about starting a medication to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
What Happens During the Vascular Screening?
Ultrasound is used to measure the thickness of the walls of your carotid arteries, also known as carotid intima-media thickness, or "CIMT." This is a safe, non-invasive test in which you lie flat for 30 to 40 minutes. A small amount of gel is applied to your neck. We use sound beams to assess your carotid artery, because as the walls of this artery become thicker, your risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases.
We also image arteries to look for plaques, areas of cholesterol build-up in the arteries that left unchecked, can lead to blockages. In contrast to heart scans, vascular health screening does not involve exposure to radiation.
Vascular screening results are interpreted by an expert cardiologist and the results are sent to the ordering physician or health care professional to review with the patient.
How to Sign Up for Screening
Your physician must order the vascular health screening tests for you and can do so by calling (608) 263-9014.
In the Madison area, Group Health Cooperative pays for the test if patients meet all of the following criteria:
- The patient is referred by his or her primary care physician
- The patient does not have known atherosclerotic vascular disease
- The patient is 40 to 70 years old
- The patient has "intermediate" risk, defined as a 10-year risk of myocardial infarction or coronary death of 10-20 percent, or 6-20 percent for patients with a family history of premature heart disease
Patients may also self-pay for the screening, however, the test must still be ordered by a physician. Self–payment for all charges related to the Vascular Health Screening Program must be made prior to testing. Payment will be collected at the time of the scan. A report of the tests and risk assessment session will be sent to your ordering physician.
For the current self-pay cost for the test, call (608) 263-9014.