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Rhode Island and Miriam researchers say patient gender may influence nuclear stress test referrals
Date:6/8/2011

  • Researchers identify gender disparities in the appropriate use of nuclear stress tests
  • More women than men are unnecessarily referred for nuclear stress tests
  • Majority of inappropriate studies ordered by primary care physicians

PROVIDENCE, R.I. New research from cardiologists at Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals suggests a possible gender disparity in how patients are referred for nuclear stress tests, an imaging technique that measures blood flow to the heart muscle both at rest and during periods of stress, such as exercise.

According to the study, published online by the Journal of Nuclear Cardiology, nuclear stress tests ordered for women are less likely to meet national "appropriate use criteria" than they are for men. Created by the American College of Cardiology Foundation, appropriate use criteria are designed to help physicians determine which patients would benefit from testing and when such imaging might be unnecessary.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Atypical heart attack symptoms, such as arm pain or nausea, are more common in women than in men, which is one reason why women have historically received fewer stress tests and cardiac catheterizations even when they presented with the same symptoms as men, such as crushing chest pain.

Lead author Aarti Gupta, M.D., a cardiology fellow at Rhode Island Hospital, notes that in the last decade or so, this has created a push for more testing of women when they present with any symptoms that could indicate cardiovascular disease.

"However, our study shows that of the women who do undergo nuclear stress testing, a number of those studies are classified as having been done inappropriately compared to men," said Gupta. "So that means in our fear of missing heart disease, we are testing too many women indiscriminately."

Known medically as myocardial perfusion im
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Contact: Ellen Slingsby
eslingsby@lifespan.org
401-444-6421
Lifespan
Source:Eurekalert

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