New treadmill 'scores' may help physicians better diagnose heart disease

ATLANTA, Nov. 9 -- A new scoring system used in treadmill testing may help physicians improve their accuracy in diagnosing heart disease, according to a study presented today at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

Treadmill tests have been used for decades to help diagnose atherosclerosis, the narrowing of coronary arteries that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. The treadmill test, also called an exercise stress test, helps physicians learn how well an individual's heart handles physical exertion. The test measures heart rate, blood pressure and the electrical function of the heart as the patient walks on a treadmill. The speed at which the patient walks gradually increases, requiring the body to use more oxygen and the heart to pump harder.

Treadmill test results can show if there's a lack of blood supply through the arteries that go to the heart.

A diagnosis of heart disease is made by using results of the treadmill test, along with other "clinical" information, such as medical problems and risk factors. An angiogram -- an X-ray of the blood vessel -- can be used to confirm the diagnosis.

According to Victor F. Froelicher, M.D., of Stanford University Medical School, lead researcher of the study, a new mathematical equation that uses information from the treadmill test provides a "score" that may improve the diagnosis of coronary heart disease and avoid the need for and expense of an angiogram.

"The scores are based on the same information that the physician has, but the information is put into a mathematical equation that provides a probability of disease. Our goal was to determine if these scores were as accurate as the physician's diagnosis. No one had studied this question before," he says.

The research, involving 599 male patients, none of whom had previously had a heart attack, was carried out at the Stanford/Palo Alto V.A. Health Center in Palo Alto, Calif., and William Beaumont Hospital i

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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