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Risky heart CAT scans reduced 60% in study

University of Michigan Health System

Michigan hospitals reduced the inappropriate use of a risky and expensive CAT scan by nearly 60-percent in a recent study.

Kavitha Chinnaiyan is a cardiologist at Beaumont Hospital.

She says too often, doctors order heart CAT scans just to rule out heart disease - even if their patients have no symptoms.

She says that's not a good idea - and not just because the scans cost $500 to $1,500 per scan.

"It exposes an individual to a lot of radiation for just one test," says Chinnaiyan.  "It has been suggested that just one scan can increase the risk of developing cancer over their lifetime."

She says the scans increase health care costs well above the actual cost of the test, because doctors often find something other than what they were looking for after a heart CAT scan is performed.

"(The) patient gets worried, the doctor gets worried, and then you can imagine, downstream, a whole bunch of tests for it, which could have been avoided by avoiding the very first test."

 The study involved educating doctors at 40 hospitals about when it's appropriate to order a heart CAT scan, and the risk of the procedure.

Chinnaiyan says the study shows it's possible for doctors to voluntary reduce unnecessary procedures - without insurance companies setting up bureaucratic hoops.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.