Objective: Our purpose was to compare exercise test scores and ST measurements with a physician's estimation of the probability of the presence and severity of angiographic disease and the risk of death. The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association exercise testing guidelines provide equations to calculate treadmill scores and recommend their use to improve the predictive accuracy of the standard exercise test. However, if physicians can estimate the probability of coronary artery disease and prognosis as well as the scores, there is no reason to add this complexity to test interpretation.
Methods: A clinical exercise test was performed and an angiographic database was used to print patient summaries and treadmill reports. The clinical/treadmill test reports were sent to expert cardiologists and to 2 other groups, including randomly selected cardiologists and internists. They classified the patients summarized in the reports as having a high, low, or intermediate probability for the presence of any severe angiographic disease and estimated a numerical probability from 0% to 100%. The Social Security Death Index was used to determine survival status of the patients.
Results: Twenty-six percent of the patients had severe angiographic disease, and the annual mortality rate for the population was 2%. Forty-five expert cardiologists returned estimates on 473 patients, 37 randomly chosen practicing cardiologists returned estimates on 202 patients, 29 randomly chosen practicing internists returned estimates on 162 patients, 13 academic cardiologists returned estimates on 145 patients, and 27 academic internists returned estimates on 272 patients. When probability estimates for presence and severity of angiographic disease were compared, in general, the treadmill scores were superior to physicians' and ST analysis at predicting severe angiographic disease. When prognosis was estimated, treadmill prognostic scores did as well as expert cardiologists and better than most other physician groups.
Conclusion: Estimates of the presence of clinically significant and severe angiographic coronary artery disease provided by scores were superior to physician estimates and ST analysis alone. Estimates of prognosis provided by scores were similar to the estimates made by expert cardiologists and more accurate than the estimates made by most other physician groups.