If your heart is sound, avoid going in for scans

February 11th, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 11 (IANS) People with healthy or sound hearts should avoid going in for various scans, warns an advisory committee convened by the American Heart Association.
The panel cautioned that cardiac scans that use ionizing radiation should, in all cases, be used judiciously, and are not recommended for people without chest pain or other symptoms who are at low risk for heart disease.

“There is a false sense of security among physicians that the radiation dose received by individual patients, and the potential health risks that may come with it, can be determined precisely,” said Thomas Gerber, Mayo Clinic cardiologist in Florida.

The uncertainty, and long-standing controversy, centres on how to connect the low doses of ionising radiation received by patients from medical imaging procedures to the possibility of cancer development, said Gerber.

“There is no question that large doses of radiation, such as from the atomic bomb blasts in Japan, are linked to cancer, but there is a lot of unresolved debate about whether or not, or to what degree, low doses carry cancer risks,” he said.

The American Heart Association asked the Writing Committee to explain to doctors how radiation dose to patients is determined, as a way of helping cardiologists understand and explain the risk and benefits of imaging procedures that use ionizing radiation.

Additionally, the authors cite a hypothetical scenario where, if every person aged 50 to 55 in the US (about 1.8 million people) were screened for heart disease with cardiac CT every five years until age 70, the estimated total increase in the number of fatal cancers over the entire 20 years might be about 43,000, said a Mayo Clinic release.

Yet, if doctors could use that screening information to prevent only 10 percent of the unexpected deaths from heart disease, 35,000 fewer deaths would occur per year.

The study was published in Circulation.

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