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Study: Curtailing Imaging Tests Could Help Prevent Cancer

October 9, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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A study from researchers at the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center concluded that a reduction in cardiac stress imaging tests would not only lower costs for patients but decrease radiation exposure as well.

In fact, the researchers estimate that approximately 500 people each year get cancer each year in the US from radiation received during a cardiac stress test. Most of those people, researchers say, didn’t need radiological imaging tests in the first place.

“Cardiac stress testing is an important clinical tool but we are over using imaging for reasons unrelated to clinical need. This is causing preventable harm and increasing healthcare costs,” stated lead author of the study, Joseph Ladapo, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Departments of Medicine and Population Health at NYU Langone. “Reducing unnecessary testing also will concomitantly reduce the incidence of radiation related cancer.”

Dr. Ladapo and his colleagues reached their conclusions utilizing data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) from 1993 to 2010. They looked at patients with coronary heart disease who were referred for cardiac stress tests.

From between 1993 and 1995 until 2008 until 2010 the number of cardiac stress tests with imaging grew substantially. By 2008-10, 87 percent of all cardiac stress tests had an imaging component. Researchers say that about one-in-three of those tests were probably inappropriate, with associated annual costs and harms of $501 million and 491 future cases of cancer.

Ladapo says that clinical decision support tools need to be utilized to reduce the number of image-based cardiac stress tests.

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