May 21, 2013. Jan Greene – Staff Writer, Mint Medical Education

Eydie DeVincenzi, a spry 72-year-old northern California resident, credits her good health and energy to growing up in a traditional Italian household where the Mediterranean diet held sway. Even so, she’s watched close up as her 93-year-old father has steadily declined in his later years. That’s why DeVincenzi found herself attending a free stroke screening event at Washington Hospital in Fremont, California.

“I want to make sure my quality of life is as high as possible at every stage from now on,” DeVincenzi said as she waited her turn, brightening the room in a jacket of deep purple.

The screening event is an annual traditional at the hospital and is supported by Mint Medical, which provides sonographers to carry out ultrasound examinations. The event brought about 150 people with some risk of stroke to a large conference room near the hospital. Participants made the rounds of medical professionals checking their blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, and heart rhythms. They finished up with the carotid screening and a discussion of the results with local cardiologist Dr. Ash Jain.

An ultrasound examination of the carotid artery in the neck is one part of a complete stroke risk screening, explains Dr. Jain, medical director of the hospital’s stroke program. “Ultrasound is the best, the easiest and least expensive way to find a blockage,” he says. “It takes five minutes, it does not hurt the patient and you get 90 percent accurate results.”

Patients needed to have some risk factor to be able to attend the event, as stroke screening is recommended only for people who are at risk. “If we treat them for diabetes well, blood pressure well, find (heart) rhythm problems, find their blockages I think we have a good chance of controlling and decreasing the risks of strokes in our community,” Dr. Jain says.

Doug Van Houten, R.N., stroke coordinator at the hospital, notes that stroke is the nation’s leading reason for serious long-term disability, but is 80 percent preventable by avoiding risk factors such as smoking, excessive drinking, high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes and arterial sclerosis. Patients whose carotid ultrasound shows blockage through ultrasound screening may be advised to make lifestyle changes or be referred to further vascular treatment.

Patient Clyde Igne was physically active and relatively young when he suffered his first stroke; he came to the screening event to find out his risk for a second stroke. He has worked hard to return to an active lifestyle that includes bicycling and fishing, but had to give up surfing and still struggles with walking and speaking.

As a result of the screening, Clyde learned important information that he planned to bring to his doctor for follow-up. “I’m here to say to pay attention to the signs so you don’t have a stroke,” he advises to others who might have risk factors or symptoms. “It’s so easy to just overlook it thinking that you’re not going to be affected. You’ve got to look at the whole body and take care of it.”

Annual Screenings

The annual Washington Hospital stroke screening event is a ten-year tradition in Fremont, where it is supported by Fremont Bank. Late bank chairman Morris Hyman felt strongly about providing the local community with the free medical screenings after his life was saved by the identification of an abdominal aneurysm during a radiological screening for a back problem.

The hospital, bank and Mint Medical also provide free screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysms and peripheral artery disease at other times in the year.

Mint Medical provides ultrasound technologists for these events as part of its commitment to “giving back” to the community, says company CEO Brad Hummel. “We’re happy to be part of this kind of community outreach as preventive medicine becomes more important with the onset of health care reform.”

Visit the Mint Medical Education website to watch a video about the event.

Mint Medical provides dedicated, high-quality accredited vascular laboratory services to the community. Its business unit Mint Medical Education provides training and performance improvement on many aspects of ultrasound to health care providers at its training centers in San Francisco and Monterey, California. See the company website for more information, and check back often as new courses are added to the schedule.

By the end of the screening event, patient Eydie learned some important information about her health status from the screenings. “I do have some issues and I’m going to call my doctor and set up an appointment,” she said after going through the process and talking with Dr. Jain. “I have to be more proactive about my health.”