Doctors overuse invasive heart test, study says

Doctors use a 50-year-old invasive heart imaging test known as a left ventriculography or left ventriculogram much too often, a Stanford University School of Medicine study concludes, adding unnecessary costs and putting patients unnecessarily at risk for damaging side effects. Many patients in the study of Aetna insurance data had already undergone a better imaging procedure within the previous month. Often given along with a coronary angiogram, the test measures ejection fraction (how much blood the heart pushes out with each beat) and relies on the injection of contrast dye, which can hurt the kidneys. Another problem with the old diagnostic, according to the study: It brings additional radiation into the equation and can also put patients at risk for stroke or at least abnormal heart rhythms. Echocardiograms, nuclear cardiac imaging and other less-invasive and superior tests now on the market are better alternatives, the study concludes. Details are in the latest American Heart Journal. Release

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