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When you find a stack of direct mail pieces in the mailbox, it’s tempting to throw the whole bunch out, unread. But Aurora resident Silvia Reven noticed one piece in the mail that caught her attention — an offer from Edward Hospital for a free stroke and vascular screening.
She mentioned the offer to her husband Matthew, who followed through and made an appointment. The 30-minute Stroke and Vascular Ultrasound Screening includes easy and painless scans of the carotid artery and the abdomen, as well as blood pressure readings at the ankle, the three areas where plaque tends to form and cause a stroke or aneurysm.
Matthew Reven, a trim, 56-year-old former Marine, didn’t imagine the screening would lead to the diagnosis of a large, life-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysm, immediate hospitalization, and surgery. He had a risk factor he was unaware of — a grandfather who’d been treated for an abdominal aortic aneurysm years earlier.
“We were totally blindsided,” says Silvia. “I’m so happy I didn’t throw the card away as junk mail.”
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a swelling of the lower part of the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. One section of Matthew’s aorta had enlarged to almost three times its normal diameter.
According to Matthew’s cardiologist, Anand Ramanathan, MD, of Edward Heart Hospital and Midwest Heart-Advocate Medical Group, “With a large aneurysm like this there is a 10 to 20 percent risk of rupture within a year. If that happens outside a hospital, there can be heavy bleeding and the patient usually doesn’t make it.”
In July 2015, Matthew underwent endovascular repair performed by vascular surgeon James Walsh, MD, of Edward Heart Hospital and Cardiac Surgery Associates, with Dr. Ramanathan. In this newer, less invasive alternative to open-abdominal surgery, a catheter carrying a synthetic graft is threaded from the groin through the body to the weakened part of the aorta. There, tiny hooks are used to attach the graft to the damaged section, reinforcing it and helping to prevent ruptures.
“Endovascular surgery is the wave of the future in treating this condition, but we still need to follow up with periodic scans to make sure no revisions are needed,” says Dr. Walsh.
Matthew’s follow-up scan at four weeks looked good and he was back to his job in IT management within a couple of weeks.
Many people with aneurysms, high blood pressure and certain other conditions have no symptoms.
“That’s why screenings are so important,” says Dr. Ramanathan. “Two-thirds of those who have carotid blockage will also have heart artery blockages. The screening results can help us determine an appropriate course of medication, as well as how often to schedule screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.”
There are a variety of screenings available that test not only for heart disease, but a number of cancers, diabetes, mental health disorders, osteoporosis, eye health, and many other conditions. Test results can gauge your risk for certain health problems and may help detect a disease at an early stage, when it’s most treatable.
Take a free, five-minute online health assessment.
Learn more about heart and vascular services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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