Tags: Heart Disease | electrocardiogram | low-risk patients

Skip Electrocardiograms on Low-Risk Patients, Panel Says

Skip Electrocardiograms on Low-Risk Patients, Panel Says
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Wednesday, 13 June 2018 11:37 AM

Doctors have been advised by a federal panel to skip electrocardiograms on low-risk patients because the possible harms can outweigh any potential benefits, National Public Radio reported.

The ECG is one of the most common tests performed during routine physicals. The doctor places electrodes on the chest and receives a ribbon of paper showing the electrical tracings of the heart.

ECGs are becoming the go-to method to pick up on poor cardiovascular health because the U.S. is seeing more and more people are at risk for heart attacks and strokes.

NPR said about 40 million ECGs were performed in doctors' offices in 2015 alone.

Although it is a safe and inexpensive procedure, it can lead to more dangerous follow-up testing and treatment and, if a patient is at low risk for heart disease, that could be unnecessary.

"In people who are at low risk for cardiovascular disease, there is no evidence of benefits of doing ECG screening that would outweigh the possible harms," said Dr. Seth Landefeld, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, according to NPR.

Landefeld is on the committee that developed the recommendations, which was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

He believes that the harms of ECGs can be more detrimental than the benefits, citing angiograms as a prime example.

Those follow-up tests can inadvertently damage the heart, Landefeld noted.

Electrocardiograms have strong supporters.

One of the nation’s top cardiologists, Chauncey Crandall, M.D., said the ECG is a "simple, cheap, important diagnostic tool that’s been time-tested over the past 100 years."

Crandall added that it also provides a wealth of information about the heart’s functioning.

Other doctors, though, are welcoming the new recommendations.

"If there's really no benefit and it may open a can of worms, then why are we doing it?" said Robert Hendel, chief of cardiology at Tulane University, according to NPR.

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Doctors have been advised by a federal panel to skip electrocardiograms on low-risk patients because the possible harms can outweigh any potential benefits.
electrocardiogram, low-risk patients
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2018-37-13
Wednesday, 13 June 2018 11:37 AM
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