Group recommends against ECG for low-risk patients

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced that individuals who face a low risk of cardiovascular disease should NOT undergo routine screening with electrocardiography (ECG). This makes sense to me. In over 30 years of practice, I can think of NO routine EKG in a low-risk patient, at least during an annual health-maintenence or preventive medicine exam, that has changed my treatment plan or therapy.

The New York Times “Well” blog reports, “The recommendations, published online in Annals of Internal Medicine, made the test the latest addition to an expanding list of once routine screening tools that have fallen out of favor.”

For individuals “at higher risk of heart disease, the panel found there was ‘insufficient evidence’ to determine the benefits and harms of screening with the EKG test – either at rest or during exercise – and advised that it be considered case by case basis.”

The test’s “usefulness…has been questioned for some time, and in April, a group of nine medical specialty boards included it on its list of 45 common tests and procedures that doctors should perform less often.”

The CBS News “HealthPop” blog reports, “According to the new guidelines, which were first released by the task force in 2004, an EKG given to a patient at rest or while exercising won’t predict heart disease or a coronary event in people who aren’t at high risk of having heart problems. The guidelines carry a grade ‘D’ recommendation, meaning physicians should not offer the tests.”

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