Cardiac screening with electrocardiography, stress echocardiography, or myocardial perfusion imaging: advice for high-value care from the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 2015 Mar 17;162(6):438-47. doi: 10.7326/M14-1225.


Background: Cardiac screening in adults with resting or stress electrocardiography, stress echocardiography, or myocardial perfusion imaging can reveal findings associated with increased risk for coronary heart disease events, but inappropriate cardiac testing of low-risk adults has been identified as an important area of overuse by several professional societies.

Methods: Narrative review based on published systematic reviews; guidelines; and articles on the yield, benefits, and harms of cardiac screening in low-risk adults.

Results: Cardiac screening has not been shown to improve patient outcomes. It is also associated with potential harms due to false-positive results because they can lead to subsequent, potentially unnecessary tests and procedures. Cardiac screening is likely to be particularly inefficient in adults at low risk for coronary heart disease given the low prevalence and predictive values of testing in this population and the low likelihood that positive findings will affect treatment decisions. In this patient population, clinicians should focus on strategies for mitigating cardiovascular risk by treating modifiable risk factors (such as smoking, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and overweight) and encouraging healthy levels of exercise.

High-value care advice: Clinicians should not screen for cardiac disease in asymptomatic, low-risk adults with resting or stress electrocardiography, stress echocardiography, or stress myocardial perfusion imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis*
  • Echocardiography, Stress / statistics & numerical data*
  • Electrocardiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / adverse effects
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Myocardial Perfusion Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Unnecessary Procedures*