Just Say No

Cleveland Clinic physician counsels heart patients about testing

heart vascular health line art

“Too much information!” has become a common conversational refrain.  We say it when speaker threatens to reveal more than we need to know about a personal subject.  The same utterance could be applied to medicine, where unnecessary diagnostic tests can burden caregivers with more information than they need.  Too much information can be dangerous when it leads to inappropriate testing and treatment.

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Steven Nissen, MD, chair of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, recently told The Daily Beast about a 52-year-old patient whose local doctor had ordered a CT scan of her heart, even though she had low LDL cholesterol and C-reactive protein numbers.  The scan showed some narrowing of the arteries, so she was given a more invasive imaging test.  This test seemed to indicate the need for further treatments, one of which tore an artery. Eventually, she had to come to Cleveland Clinic for a heart transplant – not to cure her heart disease, but to save her from her prior treatments.

The Daily Beast says that Dr. Nissen ”regularly counsels asymptomatic, low-risk patients against having cardiac CT, echocardiograms, and even treadmill stress tests; studies show they produce many false positives, leading to risky interventions.”  Read more, in “One Word Can Save Your Life: No!”

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Read more about Dr. Nissen’s thoughts about stress testing and other topics on our recent Coronary Artery Disease webchat transcript.

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