A government- backed panel has issued recommendations discouraging the practice of using electrodes to test the electrical activity of our heart. They said that such tests were unlikely to help doctors determine whether an individual suffers the risk of developing coronary heart diseases.
According to a statement issued by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, there is insufficient evidence to prove that 'electrocardiograms-ECGs' helps doctors predict heart risks better than traditional considerations like presence of cholesterol, high blood pressure or smoking habits in patients who do not have any symptoms related to heart diseases.
Dr.Joy Melnikow, a member of the task force from the University of California, Davis said that it would be helpful if there was evidence to prove that undertaking an ECG or exercise-ECG better classifies people at risks for developing heart diseases. This would make it easier to intervene actively with the high-risk group which would also be most beneficial for such group. ECGs or EKGs which are non-invasive and safe testing procedures are less risky compared to follow-up tests which involve passing a tube through the heart or other intensive and costly procedures.
The study team recommended against screening people at low risk for heart disease using ECGs since there are chances of more damage due to costs and other harmful effects associated with the screening of healthy adults.
Dr Joy said that if people are already at low risk of developing heart diseases and they are made to undergo one of these tests, the outcome showing an abnormality is most likely to be a false-positive result. Whether the result is false- positive or true-positive, the patient will be required to undergo additional tests which could be risky.
Dr. Joy said that people can discuss about their diet, family history and lifestyles with their doctors. The latter can use risk-calculators to determine if they run the risk of developing heart diseases and treat them appropriately instead of recommending tests like ECGs earlier than required.