MD Insider: Simple Screening Can Provide Early Warning of Stroke, Heart and Vascular Risks

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​MD Insider is a new medical series, featured quarterly in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Covering a variety of health topics, MDInsidertakes a closer look at our outstanding programs and the medical experts who lead them. The third installment features the story of Jack Hoefker, who's life was saved after our $29 vascular screening detected a large blockage in his right carotid artery. 

MD Insider: Simple Screening Can Provide Early Warning of Stroke, Heart and Vascular Risks

Heart and vascular problems often don’t show any symptoms until it’s too late. In many cases the first sign is a serious or life-threatening emergency, such as a stroke or heart attack. Detecting these problems early can literally add years to a person’s life, and help them enjoy better overall health. Unfortunately, most insurance plans won’t cover screening tests without symptoms. 

To give people who are at risk a better alternative, The Christ Hospital now offers an affordable and easily accessible Heart & Vascular Screening Program. This new resource for prevention and early detection costs only $29. It’s non-invasive, pain-free, and takes just 20 minutes. 

It’s also saving lives. Many of the screenings performed have found conditions that may have otherwise gone undetected or led to serious health implications. 

“I’ve recommended it to countless people” says Jack Hoefker, a 68-year-old Independence, Kentucky, resident who had the screening done in February. 

Hoefker was looking for a new doctor after moving to the area from Hendersonville, Tennessee. His daughter recommended her own primary care physician, Dr. Benjamin Costello. 

“Dr. Costello asked me a lot of questions about my family history, personal dietary habits and smoking,” Hoefker says. “My father died of a stroke at 71 years old and he was a picture of health before. I smoke one or two cigars a day and I’m a little bit overweight. Considering all that, Dr. Costello recommended I go to a nearby location for the new screening.” 
Hoefker had several common risk factors for heart and vascular disease. Anyone over 60 qualifies for the $29 test. It’s also available to people over 50 with one of the following risk factors: high cholesterol; high blood pressure; diabetes; smoking; or a family history of vascular disease, including stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, sudden cardiac death or an abdominal aortic aneurysm. 

In Hoefker’s case, the screening led to the early detection of a 70-99 percent blockage in his right carotid artery, which is located in the neck. “I had no symptoms whatsoever prior to the scan,” Hoefker says.“So it came as a surprise.” 
A buildup of plaque in a carotid artery typically goes unnoticed and can cause a stroke by restricting blood flow to the brain or by breaking loose and causing a blockage in a smaller vessel in the brain. 

When Dr. Costello received the results, he sent Hoefker to see Dr. Sashi Kilaru, a vascular surgeon with The Christ Hospital. Dr. Kilaru recommended surgery to clear out the artery as soon as possible. 

“I was in surgery with Dr. Kilaru a week later,” Hoefker remembers. “It was very quick.” 

Hoefker was sufficiently recovered to return to work within a week, though he needed to wait a bit longer before he could drive. A follow-up scan confirmed he no longer had significant blockage. 

“It was a big-time relief,” Hoefker says. “I mean, for 29 bucks, you can go and at least find out if you’ve got a problem, or maybe you don’t have any problem, but it’s nice to know that.” 

Thinking back to his father’s sudden stroke, Hoefker wishes his father could have benefited from the same program. 
“If this technology was around back in 1990, maybe he could still be alive,” Hoefker says. “Maybe it would have saved his life.”

Screenings are available throughout the Tristate. To schedule, call 513-261-8007. Or visit our heart screening webpage.