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Stress tests found to miss early cases of heart disease

August 23, 2004|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Stress tests aimed at detecting blocked arteries in patients might miss more than half the cases of early heart disease, U.S. researchers reported last week.

Scientists found that 56% of patients who breezed through their stress tests in fact had significant hardening of the arteries and needed treatment.

"Our findings demonstrate that a relatively high number of patients who had normal readings on their stress tests had a calcium score of greater than 100, a score that is accepted as implying the need for aggressive medical treatment," said Dr. Daniel Berman, director of Cardiac Imaging at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

His team tested patients already considered at moderate risk of heart disease.

Most were men over age 45 or women over age 55; smokers; or people with high cholesterol or high blood pressure, diabetes or a close relative with early heart disease, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study's 1,195 patients had no evidence of heart disease, had stress tests and then a procedure called coronary calcium scanning within six months.

The calcium test looked for the evidence of artery-blocking plaque. Among the 1,119 patients with normal stress tests, 56% had calcium scores greater than 100, and 31% had scores greater than 400, Berman found.

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