Volunteers are needed to help Leicester researchers design a programme for peripheral arterial disease screening, with the aim to improve heart and circulatory health.
Researchers working at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) – a partnership between Leicester’s Hospitals, the University of Leicester and Loughborough University – have been awarded £2.3 million to investigate if adding tests to existing routine screening could improve detection of conditions that put people at risk of cardiovascular disease. The team wants to work with members of the public to ensure this research meets the needs of those who will be affected.
A condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD), in which arteries in the legs can become narrowed by fatty deposits, together with high blood pressure, puts people at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Both conditions are relatively common but about a third of people over the age of 65 with one or both of these conditions do not know they have them. With early detection and treatment of these conditions, people can be supported with preventing future problems.
Currently, men who turn 65 are invited to attend an ultrasound screening to check for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Eight out of ten men attend these appointments, meaning it is a good opportunity for healthcare professionals to offer other health checks to this group. The research team believes that by adding simple tests to check blood pressure in the arms and legs of men attending for AAA screening it will identify those with PAD and high blood pressure so that they can begin to actively manage these conditions and reduce their risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease in the future.
Matt Bown, Professor of Vascular Surgery at the University of Leicester and Consultant Vascular Surgeon at Leicester’s Hospitals, leads the research programme. He said: “We need people who are likely to be invited for this screening, or who have experience of these conditions, to help us get the programme right.
“We are hopeful that by adding these additional screening tests we can reduce people’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, we need to be sure that this is done in a way that keeps patients’ needs at the forefront, and for that we need people most likely to be affected by this research to help us design the programme.”
Marinus (Rien) van Keulen is a member of the public who helped researchers put together the initial research application. He said: “I have been monitored by the AAA screening team based in Leicester during the last 8 years or so because I have an aneurysm in the aorta just below the heart.
“From my own experience, input by members of the public is very important, because patients are not medical professionals and therefore can have a completely different perspective on how tasks involving us are being carried out.
“The NHS has looked after my health since I emigrated from the Netherlands to England in 1975. I had always thought I would try and give something in return after retiring, and got involved with Professor Bown’s research in 2018.
“As public contributors, we are the people who will help others to benefit from the programme. We know what it feels like to undergo one or more scans and how they are being carried out. Adding an additional process to an aneurysm scan will be of benefit to other patients and our opinions and suggestions can influence how things are actually done.”
Members of the group would attend online meetings with the researchers around once a month to help design the programme.
If you’re over 60, have experience of PAD, high blood pressure or undergoing AAA screening, you can express your interest in joining the group here: https://www.leicesterbrc.nihr.ac.uk/phast/