Source: Reuters News Service
This is an excerpt from the Reuters News Service posting: Medical Groups Push to Expand Heart X-ray, in which UCSF Cardiologist Rita Redberg, MD is extensively quoted. We summarize the story and Dr. Redberg's comments here. Follow this link to the complete story.
More patients could benefit from x-ray scans of their hearts, according to new advice put forth in a report from several medical societies. ...
But CT scans carry risks that weren't emphasized in the report, which appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. For instance, they expose patients to significant radiation, which may increase cancer risks, said Dr. Rita F. Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the work.
And the dyes that are sometimes used to enhance contrast in the pictures can damage the kidneys.
"Right now we don't have any data showing that cardiac CT is as good as or better than other tests we have," Redberg said.
Such tests include treadmill stress tests, ultrasound imaging and radionuclide imaging. Only the last exposes patients to radiation.
Redberg said CT scans for heart disease had become exceedingly popular over the past few years, with hundreds of thousands of them done every year.
CT scans may cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand. But in Redberg's view, for patients who don't have congenital heart defects, they are little more than "pretty pictures."
"A test cannot predict whether or not you are going to have a heart attack, and it can't prevent getting one," she said. "You get more false information than you get real information."
She said she usually counsels patients mostly based on known risk factors such as diabetes and obesity. In those cases, she may prescribe drugs to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
But first and foremost, she recommends eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise and not smoking.
"Those things will prevent you from having a heart attack," she told Reuters Health.