FRIDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Women are more likely than
men to be referred for unnecessary nuclear stress tests, a new
A nuclear stress test, also called myocardial perfusion imaging,
is an imaging technique that measures blood flow to the heart
muscle at rest and during periods of stress, such as exercise. The
test can detect heart disease, but it's expensive and exposes
people to radiation.
U.S. researchers analyzed 314 nuclear stress tests to determine
whether they met so-called appropriate use criteria, guidelines set
by the American College of Cardiology Foundation to help doctors
decide whether such testing would be beneficial. Nearly all of the
tests had been ordered for chest pain.
They found that 263 of the tests were appropriate, 34 were
inappropriate and 17 were uncertain. Women accounted for 68 percent
of inappropriate tests and 82 percent of uncertain tests, the study
Historically, women with symptoms of cardiovascular disease have
received fewer stress tests and cardiac catheterizations than men,
according to the researchers, but the past decade has seen a push
for more testing of women. The findings of this study suggest that
"in our fear of missing heart disease, we are testing too may women
indiscriminately," Dr. Aarti Gupta, a cardiology fellow at Rhode
Island Hospital and the study's lead author, said in a news release
from Lifespan health system.
The researchers also found that primary care doctors ordered the
most nuclear stress tests. However, 74 percent of their tests were
deemed appropriate, compared with 92 percent of those ordered by
cardiologists. For female patients, cardiologists' stress tests
were considered appropriate 86 percent of the time, compared with
71 percent for primary care doctors.
"The findings indicate a continuing need for education among
primary care providers for appropriate test ordering, particularly
for women," Gupta said.
The study was published online in the
Journal of Nuclear Cardiology.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
nuclear stress tests.