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Medical Consultations Just As Effective As An ECG

Posted Nov 21 2008 4:28pm

Researchers reveal today that people are dying from heart disease unnecessarily due to incompetencies in the standard Electrocardiogram (ECG) test that is used to diagnose many patients.

Studies were carried out by doctors at the London Chest Hospital. Data they collected from 4,873 patients who received an ECG when suffering from pain in the chest area, revealed that nearly half (47 per cent)
continued on to experience a “coronary event” - for example a heart attack. This was despite tests coming back as negative in identifying any abnormalities.

Professor Adam Timmis and his team reports that the results suggest “exercise” ECGs, where patients usually run on a treadmill while electrical impulses produced by the heart’s rhythm are recorded, “are limited in how accurately they predict the risk of future heart disease”.

In fact they discovered that consulatations with a GP was providing practically the same amount of information about potential heart issues as the ECG.

One of the first signs of heart disease can be Angina - a condition brought on through not enough oxygen reaching the heart muscle.

The study, which was pulished online by the British Medical Journal, advised that for some people experiencing chest pain, the ECG test is just not efficient enough to detect potential problems.

In a larger study, 8,176 patients received an ECG when they were in a relaxed state, however this additionaly revealed no further benefit in comparison to a medical consultation and family history analysis.

Professor Timmis said, “Our study emphasises the importance of the clinical assessment for prognosis in patients with suspected angina. A prerequisite of any new test should be the demonstration of its incremental value over clinical assessment if risk stratification is to be improved and the potential for chest pain clinics to reduce coronary mortality is to be fully realised.”

Mike Knapton, of the British Heart Foundation, said, “This study confirms that the best way to diagnose a patient is to talk through their symptoms and medical history with their doctor.”

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