Joelle Reizes - October 16, 2012
Recent criticism of our work at Life Line Screening comes from an article written by physician and writer Margaret McCartney, along with her new site PrivateHealthScreening.org. Those of us at Life Line Screening understand there will always be debate about health screenings. We’ve always offered high quality, convenient, affordable private screenings that individuals can voluntarily choose if they have appropriate risk factors and decide that the screenings are right for them.
Criticism of Life Line Screening fails to account for the context in which screenings are taking place. In the U.S., stroke is the fourth most common cause of death and is the leading cause of adult disability (1). This is just one statistic among many that prove we need new ideas and strategies to alter these alarming facts. Identifying serious underlying disease before it leads to a catastrophic event is surely better than waiting until the event happens.
Dr. McCartney mentions that she believes that carotid artery screening is only worthwhile once the person has already had a stroke. This simply does not make any sense. And waiting for “symptoms,” as she suggests, is also a poor strategy as most strokes come without any warning. Only about 15% of people who have a stroke have a warning “mini-stroke” ahead of time, so for the vast majority of people, the stroke comes out of the blue (2).
Also, never in this conversation has Dr. McCartney discussed the benefits of a person finding disease and seeing a doctor in time to put preventive strategies in place. While she is extremely focused on the little possibility of false-positives, she never allows for the opposite and even more powerful situation – someone coming in with something serious who is now able to work with his or her doctor to get back on the right path, thus possibly averting a serious crisis. In fact, a recent paper showed that preventive screening and treatment for vascular disease risks resulted in 14% reduction in premature death and an 11% reduction in reliance on long-term care in comparison to those who did not participate in the study (3).
Life Line Screening has many customer testimonials to attest to our services and is actively engaged in research to better understand the utility and efficacy of screening (4, 5). No screening is without risk, and any screening has a small, but certain risk of adverse outcomes as have any medicines or surgeries. On the basis of probabilities, however, its advantages far outweigh potential risks.
Dr. McCartney and others are certainly free to disagree. However, to ignore the possibility that a model that promotes education and prevention can serve a vital role in the health care continuum is to do a disservice to the very patients she cares for. You’ve seen both sides of the story. Educate yourself with the facts. View our video below to discern for yourself.
1. American Stroke Association: About Stroke. 2012. http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/AboutStroke/About-Stroke_UCM_308529_SubHomePage.jsp
2. Most Stroke Patients Do Not Get A Warning: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Hackham DG, Kapral MK, Wang JT, Fang J, Hachinski V. Neurology 2009; 73: 1074-1076.
3. The Vascular Society. Outcomes after elective repair of infra-renal abdominal aortic aneurysm. 2012. http://www.vascularsociety.org.uk/
4. Horst Bickel K-H, Bronner M, Etgen T, et al. Reduction of long-term care dependence after an 8-year primary care prevention program for stroke and dementia: The INVADE Trial. J Am Heart Assoc 2012:1. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.112.000786
5. M Chabok, M Aslam, R Farahmandfar, J Coltart, Epidemiological Study and Risk Analysis in Men and Women of Different Ages with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA). International Angiology Journal, June 2012, Vol. 31(Suppl. 1-3) 37.
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