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

n the benefits gained," said Leslee Shaw, Ph.D., professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, and an author of the editorial. "If we can identify appropriate patients for testing, then we can provide more intensive treatment and the patient will likely have better outcomes. And, importantly, the radiation exposure is far less than the benefit gained from targeting treatment for heart disease."

Of course, there are also some cases in which use of these tests may not afford the greatest benefit, according to authors. For example, the risk of exposing a 38-year-old woman of childbearing age who reports one episode of stabbing chest pain to radiation might be far greater than any benefit because her risk of coronary artery disease is so low. Other procedures, such as a routine treadmill test or electrocardiogram could be used to help rule out heart problems. In other cases, cardiac imaging can help rule out heart problems and redirect clinical care as needed.

"There has also been a tendency to play up the fears of radiation and we don't want patients to be afraid of these tests," Shaw explains, adding there have been some instances in which very sick patients refuse imaging procedures when the test would have been valuable in terms of their medical management and follow up. "We should encourage patients and doctors to talk about whether a test is needed, why it is being ordered and what it will show. Dialogue about the benefits of testing and the risks of radiation exposure is an essential part of the patient and physician decision making."

Clinicians should educate patients about these tests and encourage them to be informed participants in decision making by asking themselves: "Am I going to gain more information by having this test, and am I willing to accept a small dose [of radiation] to find out?"

Some of the articles featured in this issue provide the latest on:

  • The risks and clinical
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Contact: Amanda Jekowsky
ajekowsk@acc.org
202-375-6645
American College of Cardiology
Source:Eurekalert

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