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Concerns over radiation exposure may overshadow life-saving benefits of cardiac imaging tests
Date:5/10/2010

When patients present with chest pain or other high-risk symptoms of heart problems, doctors increasingly rely on nuclear imaging and computed tomography (CT) tests to find out whether there is evidence of heart disease, blockages in the coronary arteries or reduced blood flow to the heart. Results of these procedures can help guide life-saving prevention and treatment options.

However, despite their widespread use and efforts by the cardiac imaging community to reduce exposure to ionizing radiation, concerns over the potential cancer-causing effects of these diagnostic tests continue to dominate discussions and may lead to imbalanced decision-making and heighten consumers' fear of these tests, according to experts writing in the May 2010 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging. This special issue of the Journal explores the challenges of cardiac imaging, including how to effectively measure the radiation doses of different tests, as well as the lack of standard guidelines to evaluate risks and benefits of using such imaging tests.

"These tests are so widely applied now, the concern is that there is some potential of increased cancer risk associated with their use," said Jagat Narula, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Cardiology, University of California, Irvine, and editor-in-chief of JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging. "The problem is that most estimates of radiation exposure stem from an extrapolation of studies on World War II Hiroshima survivors, and the radiation exposure from imaging tests may not necessarily be the same."

As with anything in medicine, a careful analysis of the risks and benefits of cardiac imaging is warranted, and experts agree these tests should only be used when the clinical benefit is expected to exceed the potential harm.

"Because most patients undergoing cardiac imaging are symptomatic, the risk of heart disease is high, so the radiation risk is far less tha
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Contact: Amanda Jekowsky
ajekowsk@acc.org
202-375-6645
American College of Cardiology
Source:Eurekalert

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