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Physicians May Be Ordering Carotid Imaging Too Often

Uncertain results can prompt surgery that may be unnecessary and risky

MONDAY, April 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Many heart patients undergo carotid imaging for uncertain or inappropriate reasons, according to a study published online April 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Salomeh Keyhani, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues tracked 4,127 VA patients — all aged 65 or older, with an average age of 74 — who underwent carotid revascularization for carotid stenosis between 2005 and 2009. The patients didn’t have symptoms, and almost all had undergone screening.

The researchers found that scans for uncertain reasons happened 83.4 percent of the time, while scans for inappropriate reasons happened 11.3 percent of the time. Only 5.4 percent of these patients were screened for appropriate reasons.

“Consider carefully the reason the screening test is being performed and the consequences of a positive, negative or equivocal result, and have that discussion with patients before the test,” Larry Goldstein, M.D., chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine in Lexington, told HealthDay. Goldstein wrote a commentary accompanying the study.

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