The electrocardiogram you got at your most recent physical may have been a waste of time and money.
A guideline from the American College of Physicianspublished Monday in The Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that routine cardiac testing of adults without symptoms has not been shown to improve patient outcomes, and can lead to potential harms.
There is no evidence that stress tests, electrocardiograms ormyocardial perfusion imaging (the so-called nuclear stress test that involves exposure to radiation) have any advantages over routine risk assessment in asymptomatic people. All the tests commonly produce false positives that lead to further unnecessary testing, and all involve extra expense.
The guideline says that the benefits of testing should be greater than the benefits of assessing traditional risk factors like age, smoking, blood pressure and lipid levels.
The lead author, Dr. Roger Chou, an associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, said that “doing a stress test doesn’t give you extra information that is helpful” in a person without symptoms.
“When the doc says to get a test, you should ask why,” he added. “ ‘What are you going to do with the information you gain from it?’ As a patient, you should ask what they are basing their decision on. We don’t want to do additional tests just for the sake of testing.”