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Medical News & Perspectives
January 15, 2003

Imaging to Diagnose Cardiovascular Disease

JAMA. 2003;289(3):288-289. doi:10.1001/jama.289.3.288

The import of commercials increasingly aired on radio and television is unmistakable: a potential time bomb is ticking inside all listeners. That bomb is cardiovascular disease (CVD), such advertisements warn, but for only $499 anyone can defuse the situation by receiving a full-body computed tomographic (CT) scan to detect the disease—or bring peace of mind.

Many cardiologists are troubled by these pitches. They note the lack of scientific evidence to support the idea that such scanning offers improved sensitivity, specificity, and cost-effectiveness over traditional diagnostic methods. Still, a number of heart specialists believe that noninvasive imaging is about to become an important tool for CVD detection in certain populations, and not just a money-making device that preys on the fears of the general public. They call for large clinical trials to validate imaging and bring it into the mainstream of CVD diagnostics.