Angio Procedures - Consider Them Carefully


 The various angio procedures have become so common that consumers may start to think of them as sort of a lube job. As if they’re routine maintenance like changing your car’s oil.  But that perception is dangerous and also expensive. There are always risks with any invasive medical procedure and an angiogram is an invasive procedure, therefore it should only be done when warranted. A physician who would do an angiogram on you because you insisted may be fearful of a lawsuit and will do procedures to cover himself. If you are worried, on your next visit to the doctor take a list of your concerns. Discuss these concerns one by one until you are satisfied with the answers. You are the consumer. Be smart.

There are other ways of assuring that your heart is healthy such as regular visits to a physician you trust, knowing your cholesterol level and blood pressure, eating a well balanced diet and making sure you are consistently exercising.

A troublingly high number of U.S. patients who are given angiograms turn out not to have a significant problem, according to the latest National  Institute of Health study to suggest Americans get an excess of medical tests. In the case of an angiogram or angioplasty, the hospital bill can run to $20,000 which your insurance might pay.  So, if your insurance pays, who cares about the bill? The hidden equation is that someone will pay and if your insurers make less money on your policy, they will make it up on someone else, either by raising rates or denying coverage. Someone always pays.

The researchers said the findings suggest doctors must do better in determining which patients should be subjected to the cost and risks of an angiogram. The test carries a small but real risk — less than 1 percent — of causing a stroke or heart attack, and also entails radiation exposure.

“We can do better. There is no doubt in my mind,” said Dr. Ralph Brindis of the University of California San Francisco, one of the study’s authors.

Angiograms are often given to patients who might be having a heart attack or have symptoms that suggest a serious blockage. They are also sometimes done on people who may have some less clear-cut symptoms, like shortness of breath, or no symptoms but some risky traits and an abnormal result on another heart test. This group accounts for about 20 to 30 percent of angiogram cases.

In the study, nearly two-thirds of the patients in this second group were found to have no serious blockages.  The researchers could not establish why so few proved to have heart disease. But Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a health-outcomes researcher unconnected to the study, said he thinks the problem arises because doctors are afraid of missing something, and also getting sued.

Copyright © Christine Hammerlund – 2010.Christine Hammerlund is a registered nurse and the owner of Assured Healthcare, a healthcare staffing service headquartered in Gurnee, Illinois.