I’ve written in the past that more medicine and tests do not necessarily reflect better care.
There is no test that is 100 percent specific or sensitive. That means tests may be positive, when, in fact, there is no disease (“false positive”), or tests may be negative in the presence of disease (“false negative”).
It’s the latter that often gets the most media attention, often trumpeted as missed diagnoses. But false positives can be just as dangerous. Consider this frightening case report from the Archives of Internal Medicine:
A 52-year-old woman presented to a community hospital with atypical chest pain. Her low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels were not elevated. She underwent cardiac computed tomography angiography, which showed both calcified and noncalcified coronary plaques in several locations. Her physicians subsequently performed coronary angiography, which was complicated by dissection of the left main coronary artery, requiring emergency coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Her subsequent clinical course was complicated, but eventually she required orthotropic heart transplantation for refractory heart failure. This case illustrates the hazards of the inappropriate use of cardiac computed tomography angiography in low-risk patients and emphasizes the need for restraint in applying this new technology to the evaluation of patients with atypical chest pain. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*