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Life Line Screening Promotes Unnecessary Medical Tests

A patient brought in a flyer for Life Line Screening, where for $129 an individual can have their carotid (neck) and peripheral (leg) arteries screened for blockage, their abdominal aorta screened for aneurysm (swelling), and be tested for osteoporosis. The advertisement claims that “we can help you avoid a stroke,” and their logo notes “Life Line Screening: The Power of Prevention.”

Are these tests worth your money? Short answer: No.

Although the flyer correctly indicates that 80 percent of stokes can be prevented, the National Stroke Assocation does not recommend ultrasound as a screening test. Preventing stroke includes quitting smoking, knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, drinking alcohol in moderation (if already doing so), exercising regularly, and eating a low-sodium diet. Their is no mention of an ultrasound test. Why? Because there is NO evidence that it helps save lives in individuals who are healthy and have no symptoms (except for the following situations).

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) latest guidelines recommend only screening men between age 65 to 75 years old who have ever smoked to be screened for an aortic aneurysm. If you are in this group, ask your doctor for an ultrasound.

For women, osteoporosis screening should begin at age 65 years old and have a bone density test done. Among the “different bone measurement tests performed at various anatomical sites, bone density measured at the femoral neck by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is the best predictor of hip fracture.”

It is unclear how accurate or how good ultrasound of the heel or wrist is compared to the bone density test. If you feel you have other risk factors, like family history, use of steroids for a long period of time, then check with your doctor to see if screening should be done sooner. Otherwise at age 65, all women should be evaluated not with an ultrasound but a bone density test.

USPSTF recommends against screening for peripheral artery/vascular disease (PAD) as well as carotid ultrasound.

Worried about either condition? Ask your doctor. For peripheral vascular disease, particularly when significant, individuals commonly have leg pain when walking. The blockage in the arteries decreases blood flow to the leg muscles when active causing pain. When the person stops walking, the pain resolves.

A doctor can determine whether you have PAD by seeing if you have good foot pulses simply by placing fingers on the pedal pulses. If your pulses are normal, then you don’t have significant PAD. If the doctor is concerned about your symptoms, he will order an ultrasound which will be covered by insurance.

There’s a reason why that — in small print – Life Line Screening writes that they do “not partipate in the Medicare program and the cost of [their] screening services is not covered or reimburseable by Medicare” as well as they do “not file insurance claims and the cost of [their] screening services is your responsibility.” There is NO scientific evidence that these tests can make a difference except for the groups noted above. Since insurance companies only want to cover what is proven, Life Line Screening wants you to pay for essentially unnecessary tests.

Better use for your money? Check your blood pressure and your cholesterol. Quit smoking. Cut down alcohol use if you already drink. Maintain a low-sodium diet. To prevent osteoporosis, women should take 1,200 to 1,500 mg of calcium per day as well as 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.

For $129? Get a really nice pair of walking shoes. Oh, and don’t spend too much money on multivitamins, because they aren’t worth the money either.

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*


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12 Responses to “Life Line Screening Promotes Unnecessary Medical Tests”

  1. I’ve written about this company and its practices several times.

    See http://www.healthnewsreview.org/blog/2009/09/local-tv-report.html and see my exchange with the company’s chief medical officer in the comments section.

    Gary Schwitzer
    Publisher
    HealthNewsReview.org

  2. kevin Brown says:

    I never received my results from ny screening in Arlinton SD. My cell 612-750-1707

  3. Mike Delaney says:

    If you say the tests are not required then why is my 2 doctors setting me up for screening worth $189 for all these tests? HBP and my liver producing far too much cholesterol due to bad genes is the reason.

  4. Davis Liu, MD says:

    If the tests were medically necessary a patient, who has health insurance, would not need to pay $189 test because it would be covered. The fact it isn’t covered means that it isn’t required.

  5. penelope allingham says:

    Well wait a minute!
    Of course there no evidence that it helps save lives in individuals who are healthy and have no symptoms, I guess there’s nothing to see.
    I have a close friend (late 50s) who’s wife made him get the test s few weeks ago. He had a 93% blockage of his carotid artery, he had surgery two days later. He was told that he could have had a massive stroke at any time! The test saved his life! That’s enough for me! My husband and I are going to get a test as soon as we possibly can.
    Also… Having told my friends in CA this story, they too had a test (Just the carotid artery) from a different company. She had a 50% blockage, his was less, probably good too know!

  6. G.C says:

    All my male friends and I don’t believe USPSTF anymore. This is why: without any Urologist, Oncologist and experts, they recently decided not to recommend PSA test for men: PSA tests lead to waste money to have unnecessary further tests. What a stupid and foolish conclusion!!!!!!

    I bet that no one of them on that panel had a PSA test were above the cutoff level: from 3.2 to 4, then saved and extended his life. As data showed since 1986 start of PSA test, it have saved and extended thousands of lives.

  7. Thomas Baker says:

    LIFELINE SCREENINGS
    I had a screening in March of 2004 whiched showed a spot on my kidney. On April 3, 2004 my right kidney was removed due to renal cancer. Because the detection caught the cancer in the very early stage, I did not require additional treatments. Now, in 2012, I still do NOT have any signs of renal cancer. How much do you think that discovery was worth to me? For a test that’s not needed and is of no benefit I would pay alot, lot more.
    They’re due here in April and be assured I will again pay their price. I really dont care if you don”t, I just pray your decission does’nt cost you more .
    A SURVIVER

  8. Lee says:

    As a former – note, FORMER – employee of Life line screening, I can assure you that some of the tests are EXTREMELY lifesaving. Though by far, most people who get the tests have “nothing that requires immediate medical attention”, a handful do indeed need immediate attention. The problem is the average person doesn’t know. That’s where the peace of mind of having the tests comes in. How much is real peace of mind worth to you?
    The GREATER problem is Life Line Screening has become more of a money making machine over the years than the screening service they hope you view them as. Employees are strongly encouraged to “upsell” tests and packages (yes selling, like a car salesman trys to “add” floormats or a DVD player to your radio)
    Some screening events are so overbooked that the employees rush to finish everyone just to get a 1/2 hr lunch (and many times they do not. Now how do you feel about being tested by an exausted/hungry technician?) and to finish at the end of day. This is when you need to wonder about the quality of each and every screening.

    When a business cares more about profit than the service, the consumer suffers. I have seen technicians AND team managers give BS results on results form because they were trying to ‘catch up’.
    On a slow day, sure, get the test done. If they look busy when you walk in, though you may get tested within the alloted time – you may want to reconsider, and get tested another day.

    By the way…Walgreens sells a basic Cholesterol test for about $25.

  9. kyle says:

    this is the stupidest blog i have read, how ignorant can you be. these are good qualified individuals doing good for people. really ultrasound is uneffective? have you ever been to a hospitol same thing is done just more in depth.”A doctor can determine whether you have PAD by seeing if you have good foot pulses simply by placing fingers on the pedal pulses. If your pulses are normal, then you don’t have significant PAD. If the doctor is concerned about your symptoms, he will order an ultrasound which will be covered by insurance.” one a dr is not trained to do ultrasounds and two this is retarded people think the same thing about the carotid artery…untrue and totally false ultrasound takes a deeper reading and measures blood flow.this is an ignorant post..learn your facts please before you go and say things you dont know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. LL says:

    My uncle died of a burst abdominal aortic aneurysm — he had no warnings prior. Thank God my dad discovered by accident while being screened for something else that HE had an aaa that was at bursting size. He would not have received a routine screening of this type, hence he would have had no warning prior to a catastrophic event. Based on my family’s experiences, I have used and will continue to use LifeLife Screening as a preventive measure for my own health. It’s a small price to pay for advance knowledge of potentially deadly conditions.

  11. Buket Aydemir says:

    My father, who newer smoked or had alcohol, and did NOT have high blood pressure died from thoracic aortic aneurysm. I want to be checked but it can not be done based on USPSTF guidelines. I am now 52.

    In my case, USPSTF guidelines are not sufficient and doctors and insurance companies are blindly applying these.
    USPSTF guidelines are jsut that… guidelines. They can not cover each situation and since doctors are not flexible enough, patients need to use services like Life Line Screening.

  12. Michael McCarthy says:

    LLS refused a request by my Vascular physician for the sonogram printout saying: “Under no circumstances can anything be released before being reviewed by our physician” – up to 21 days. I’m worried about a possible AAA – Thanks Lifeline Screenings!

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