Studies Suggest Most Widely Used Cardiac Imaging Technique Is Overused

Echocardiography is a safe, noninvasive tool to image the heart without the use of radiation. For this reason it has become the most frequently used method to look at the heart for a wide variety of medical indications. Now two new studies suggest that, despite its popularity, transthoracic echocardiography is often not beneficial. One study finds that in most cases echocardiography does not change the treatment of patients. A second study suggests that using echocardiography to screen low-risk people for heart disease is not warranted.

In the first study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine,  Susan Matulevicius and colleagues reviewed the patient records for 535 consecutive  standard echocardiograms performed at their hospital (the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) in one month. Although the vast majority of cases were indicated according to current appropriate use criteria (AUC) — 91.8% were deemed appropriate, only 4.3% were deemed inappropriate, and 3.9% were deemed uncertain — less than a third of cases resulted in an active change in care…

In the second paper, also published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Norwegian researchers studied nearly 7,000 people who were already participating in the Tromsø observational study. The patients were randomized to receive an echocardiography screening examination or to a control group and were then followed for 15 years. Of the screening group patients, 7.6% ultimately received a diagnosis of a cardiac or valvular disorder.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.


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