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Release: Sept. 12, 2002

UI Health Care to again screen for Peripheral Vascular Disease

University of Iowa Health Care specialists will conduct free screenings this month for people at risk for Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), a progressive and debilitating disease affecting eight million Americans.

Other tests, including cholesterol checks and ultrasound examinations that can detect life-threatening aneurysms in the abdomen, will also be provided free of charge. The screenings will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28 at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, 200 Hawkins Drive in Iowa City.

Frequently associated with a stroke or heart attack, PVD is caused by decreased blood flow in the arteries of the legs and often leads to pain, difficulty walking, infections or sores on the feet that are slow to heal, coldness, tingling or numbness in the feet or legs, hair loss and skin discoloration.

UI Hospitals and Clinics is taking part in "Legs for Life: National Screening Week for PVD Leg Pain" the week of September 22-28. The Society of Interventional Radiology, the national professional society of interventional radiologists, is sponsoring the program. Endovascular specialists, including interventional radiologists, treat PVD and many other conditions, using minimally-invasive procedures that are alternatives to traditional surgery. The event is being coordinated by Patricia Thorpe, M.D., director of the Division of Vascular/Interventional Radiology in the UI Department of Radiology, working in conjunction with Jamal Hoballah, M.D., director of the Division of Vascular Surgery in the UI Department of Surgery, and Theresa Brennan, M.D., director of UI Clinical Cardiovascular Services. Physicians and staff from these areas are volunteering their time to make the UI Health Care screenings possible.

"Early detection and treatment of vascular disease is important and can be key to interventional treatment of blockages," Thorpe said. "The sooner PVD is detected, the better the chance of managing the disease with exercise, diet improvement and smoking cessation, or balloon angioplasty and stents. That’s why we feel this screening is a valuable public health service."

It is necessary to make an appointment for the screening by calling UI Health Access at (800) 777-8442 or (319) 384-8442. Screening participants will be provided with convenient, close-in parking at no cost. Valet services will also be available free of charge.

To reach the screening site, participants can turn east off Hawkins Drive (at the traffic light on the south end of Kinnick Stadium) and park at the south entrance of the John Pappajohn Pavilion.

Thorpe added, "It is also crucial to understand that PVD is strongly associated with a high risk for a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, PVD should be regarded as an early warning sign of the possible presence of otherwise asymptomatic but potentially serious cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. Patients with diabetes often have silent vascular disease."

In addition to being at risk for heart attacks and strokes, people with PVD also face an increased risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, the 14th leading cause of death, due to disease, and the 17th leading cause of death overall in the United States. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weakening or ballooning of the aorta, the main vessel that transports oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Over a period of time, the walls of the aorta in the area of the aneurysm become increasingly weaker and, if it grows large enough, the aneurysm may burst.

People with appointments to be screened will be asked to fill out a questionnaire and information form, to help determine their risks for PVD and abdominal aortic aneurysm. A brief screening examination will be done, to obtain blood pressure readings in the person's arm, ankle and abdomen, to further assess their potential for disease. People who appear to be at moderate or high risk for PVD or abdominal aortic aneurysm will be advised to be seen by their personal physician, for additional evaluation.

Vascular disease, such as PVD, is most common among men and women over the age of 50, people diagnosed with diabetes, smokers and people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

"PVD starts so quietly that many people don’t realize that they have a problem," said Thorpe. "Many think they are simply feeling the natural effects of aging. Vascular symptoms are often confused with arthritis or sciatic nerve pain."

In previous UI Hospitals and Clinics screenings, nearly one out of four patients was found to be at moderate or high risk for PVD and referred to their primary care physicians for further evaluation. For more information about "Legs for Life," visit the program site online at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at