Hoffmann said CCTA led to more testing because it helps detect more coronary artery disease than traditional tests.
He said that there's always a concern about exposing patients to additional radiation, but that benefits of the test often outweigh the risk. Glatter added that newer techniques can reduce the amount of radiation that a patient is exposed to during the test, but that these newer techniques aren't yet available everywhere.
Not everyone is convinced, however, that the benefits justify the risks in this patient population.
"I'm concerned about the amount of radiation, and not just from the CCTA, but a lot of times the nuclear stress test and coronary angiography that followed. For every 10 millisieverts of radiation, one in 2,000 people will get cancer, and some people in this study were getting over 10 millisieverts," said the author of an accompanying journal editorial, Dr. Rita Redberg, director of women's cardiovascular services at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Still, she said, if someone clearly needs the test, they should get it. But for those who are lower risk, who don't have clear-cut signs of heart disease, she suggested talking to your doctor about the value of the test, and the risks, specific to your situation.
Learn more about chest pain from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Udo Hoffmann, M.D., M.P.H., division head, cardiac imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, and associate professor of radiology, Harvard Medical School, Bost
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