Jul 11, 2017

By Jane Brown

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Low risk patients in Ontario are regularly getting unnecessary heart tests.

Despite clinical guidelines advising against routine electrocardiograms on patients at low risk for heart disease, new research shows one in five such patients is still being tested.

ECGs look for problems with the heart’s electrical activity.

Another problem identified by the study is that low risk patients who get ECGs are more likely to undergo additional heart testing or a cardiac consultation. These tests can be more intensive or invasive and can include regular stress tests, nuclear stress tests, echocardiograms and angiograms.

Lead author Doctor Sacha Bhatia, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and cardiologist and director at Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health Systems Solutions and Critual Care, says “Ontarians should care because testing like this happens routinely and doesn’t seem necessary and they might lead to other tests that are inconvenient, expensive and could be harmful.”

The study is published online in JAMA Internal Medicine and comes three months after the Canadian Institute for Health Information released a report showing that up to 30 percent of medical tests, treatments and procedures done in Canada are potentially unnecessary.

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