Many Patients Getting Needless Heart Test
Dallas, TX - Many patients get echocardiograms unnecessarily, according to researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Echocardiograms are safe, but most patients who get them see no change in treatment. Therefore, they are not clinically useful, the researchers said.
"The majority of echocardiograms are appropriate in terms of current guidelines," said lead researcher Dr. Susan Matulevicius, an assistant professor in the medical center's cardiology division. "But no one has looked at what an echo does to change a patient's management.
"If we keep using echoes all the time just because we can and we are not going to be doing something with that information, you are just using health care dollars that could have been used for someone else," Matulevicius said.
However, not all heart experts agree with her conclusions, which were published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Echocardiograms cost between $100 and $1,000 depending on where in the United States they are done, and they account for almost half of all cardiac-imaging services performed in the country, according to the study. In 2010, echocardiograms accounted for more than $1.1 billion -- 11 percent -- of total Medicare imaging costs, the researchers said.
Millions of dollars could be saved each year if only patients who needed the test got it, Matulevicius said.
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