TUESDAY, Sept. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors need to make sure patients understand the radiation-related risks of heart imaging tests before sending them for such procedures, a new American Heart Association scientific statement says. The statement was published online Sept. 29 in Circulation.
"With technological improvements, medical imaging has become an increasingly vital tool in diagnosing and treating patients with heart disease, but the rising use of the tests has led to increasing radiation exposure over the past two decades," Reza Fazel, M.D., chair of the statement writing committee and a cardiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in an association news release. "Heart imaging procedures account for almost 40 percent of the radiation exposure from medical imaging."
According to the statement, before referring a patient for a heart imaging test, doctors need to address the following questions: How will the test help diagnose or treat the heart problem? Are there alternatives that don't use radiation? What are the levels of radiation exposure, how will it affect the risk of cancer later in life, and how does that compare to the risk from other common activities?
"Radiation-related risk is one of the factors that should be considered in the decision to use cardiovascular imaging with ionizing radiation, particularly in younger patients in whom the potential risk of radiation exposure is thought to be higher," Fazel added. The American Heart Association suggests that when deciding on a heart imaging test, doctors also need to consider the test's diagnostic accuracy, availability, cost, convenience, and other potential risks.