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ER wait times for low-risk heart patients reduced by CT angiography, says study
07.27.2012Though some studies blame increasingly comprehensive testing in emergency rooms for overcrowding woes, research freshly published in the New England Journal of Medicine makes the opposite case. This new study attests that applying computer tomography angiography (CCTA) x-rays on individuals seeking emergency medicine for chest pain, and whose risk for heart disease is low, actually reduced waiting times.
All elements of heart disease are worth examining. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that nearly a quarter of all American deaths - some 616,000 people a year - result from heart disease. In 2010, coronary heart disease cost the U.S. $108.9 billion in healthcare expenses and lost work hours.
"Although the use of CCTA added to the amount of diagnostic testing used in the evaluation process, compared with current standard protocols, it significantly reduced length of stay without increasing costs," said study co-author and director of the Cardiac MR PET CT program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Udo Hoffmann. A CCTA scan, the study says, makes for a less invasive examination than a cardiac catheterization.
Hoffman and his team conducted this survey from April of 2010 to January of 2012, mapping results from about 1,000 people who wanted help from emergency department physicians. The subjects had no history of cardiovascular disease and clearly weren't having heart attacks.
Patients who were examined with a CCTA spent notably less time at the ER than members of the control group who did not undergo CCTA. Half of the CCTA group left the hospital within 8.6 hours, as opposed to 10 percent of the control group. The length of time it took to determine whether a patient had a heart disease was also shorter for the CCTA group. The study says no one in either the control or CCTA group was misdiagnosed.
Despite these findings, an urgent care facility or immediate care clinic may still be the most cost-effective and efficient choice for care for less serious conditions.
Categories: Emergency medicine
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