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Patients Needing Heart Tests Should Talk to Their Doctors About Radiation-Free Diagnostic Options, Including Cardiovascular Ultrasound

MORRISVILLE, N.C., Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two recent publications, a Sentinel Alert on the dangers of medical radiation by The U.S. Joint Commission and an article entitled "The Business of Healing Hearts" published in the September issue of Consumer Reports magazine, could cause patients needing diagnostic cardiovascular testing to be concerned about the safety of those tests, or even to avoid them altogether.  

According to a study cited in The Joint Commission alert, from the 72 million CT (computerized tomography) scans performed in the U.S. during 2007, it is estimated that 29,000 future cancers and 14,500 future deaths could develop due to radiation (cancer incidence = 0.04 percent).  The Commission therefore recommends that, to reduce the exposure of the patient to ionizing radiation, other imaging techniques such as ultrasound or MRI be used whenever these tests will produce the required diagnostic information at a similar quality level.  Since ultrasound is portable, cost-effective, and can be used in patients with pacemakers and defibrillators, it clearly has its advantages, particularly in caring for patients with suspected heart disease.

The American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) is available as a resource for consumers seeking alternatives to radiation-based cardiovascular testing.  "ASE's heart and circulation specialists perform ultrasound on patients of all ages, from babies to the elderly, because it is extremely safe and non-taxing on the patient.  Sonographers performing the exams don't even have to leave the room, so they are able to be with the patient at all times.  And, a quality echo exam has been proven to be as effective as other imaging procedures in the majority of diagnostic cardiac exams," said ASE President Dr. James Thomas.

Advances in technology also continue to expand echocardiography's scope of patient care. Ultrasound is now used in a wide variety of settings ranging from the operating room to the battlefield, where it is used by medics, and even to the International Space Station, where astronauts regularly perform echocardiograms on each other.  Physicians have seen the extraordinary advances in patient care that can be attained through quality heart ultrasound, including guided interventions in the operating room and catheterization lab which allow for accurate diagnosis and treatment in patients requiring valve repair and replacement, repair of aortic dissection, diagnosis of causes of stroke, detection of infections involving the heart valves, and diagnosis and management of heart failure, to name just a few.

Concerned that consumers may not be getting the right tests, the Society is focused on efforts to ensure that the appropriate cardiovascular test is performed on the right person at the right time to promote patient safety and optimal cardiac health. ASE has worked to create guidelines to better streamline care, and has developed decision-making trees to help clinicians quickly decide when tests should be performed and which tests would best meet the needs of their patients. The Appropriate Use Criteria for Echocardiography (AUC) was recently revised by the ASE in partnership with the American College of Cardiology and other subspecialty organizations to help define the conditions under which specific tests should be performed based on an evidence-based approach to cardiac care. While echocardiographers are widely available, ASE urges consumers to make sure their echocardiography laboratories are accredited by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories (ICAEL) and physicians are certified by the National Board of Echocardiography (NBE). ASE's patient care Website,, is a great resource for patients seeking accredited labs and board-certified physicians. The site also offers information to help patients discuss this safe and valuable diagnostic tool with their physicians.

The American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) is a professional organization of 13,000 physicians, cardiac sonographers, nurses and scientists involved in echocardiography, the use of ultrasound to image the heart and cardiovascular system. The organization was founded in 1975 and is the largest international organization dedicated to cardiac imaging education and research. For more information on ASE, visit

CONTACT: Cathy Kerr
Vice President of Communications, ASE

SOURCE American Society of Echocardiography
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