Ultra-affordable cardiac screening detects heart risk

Ten minutes and $59. That’s all it takes to detect plaque buildup in arteries with a new screening program launched by Abrazo Health in the Phoenix metro region. 

Abrazo recently began offering the quick and affordable test, called AngioScreen, to make it widely available as a prevention tool. Plaque is a “silent” indicator for stroke and heart disease and typically presents no symptoms in the early stages. 

If plaque is found during the test, patients are more likely to take the next step and seek medical treatment, said Phoenix cardiologist Dr. Gopi Cherukuri. 

“Advertising a screening for $100, $200 or $300 is fine but there are a lot of people who won’t want to do it at that price point or who can’t afford it,” Dr. Cherukuri said.“I think when you price something at a more reasonable price point, then they’re more open to think about it.

“If you’re stopping at Starbucks every day on your way to work, you probably spend more than $59 in a course of a month.”

Tracking No. 1 killer 

Through an AngioScreen exam, patients can learn if they are starting to develop plaque and take preventative measures to avoid serious issues five or 10 years down the road, he said. 

Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors traditionally have used routine physical exams to determine if there are possible  vascular issues. But such an exam is not useful if a patient has no symptoms to report.  

“If a patient tells me they have pain in their legs when they walk, it could mean they have blockage in an artery,” Cherukuri said. “But they could have minor blockage in their legs or in their carotid arteries and not feel a thing.”

Mobile unit to reach even more 

AngioScreen is a non-invasive ultrasound screening that shows blood flow in the arteries that supply blood to the brain and legs. 

Participants receive a color printout with photos of the carotid arteries and exam results. A nurse provides a brief consultation to explain the results, which participants are encouraged to share with their physician for follow-up. If patients do not have a physician, Abrazo staff will help connect them to one. 

In addition to on-site screenings at the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital at 1930 E. Thomas Rd, there is a mobile unit that goes out to businesses and organizations. The cost is still just $59 per person.

Abrazo is the only health system in Maricopa County licensed to use AngioScreen. So far, it has done about 100 screenings.

A number of patients learned they have plaque.  

“That’s why we’re doing it,” Dr. Cherukuri said. “We can build nice hospitals and have beautiful institutions and people with lots of initials behind their names, but the reality of it is, if you can’t get healthcare to the people who need it, then what are you doing it for?”

Those interested in scheduling a screening can call toll free at (888) 602-3648 or visit abrazohealth.com.

To watch a video of an AngioScreen procedure, go to: AngioScreen 

Phoenix-based Abrazo opening new hospitals 

Abrazo Health, headquartered in Phoenix, operates two hospitals and several campuses in Maricopa County including the Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix. It recently embarked on an expansion program; Abrazo Mesa Hospital opened in October, and two more are scheduled to open next year in Surprise and Cave Creek. 

Victoria Harker

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