Clinical utility of transthoracic two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to determine the value of contemporary echocardiography for patient diagnosis and management in clinical practice. BACKGROUND: Although the use of echocardiography is growing rapidly, there is little information about its clinical utility. METHODS: A prospective observational study was performed at a community-based, tertiary care teaching hospital. Physicians were interviewed before and after learning the result of their patients' echocardiographic examination. Chart reviews were performed to confirm reports of new diagnoses and treatments that resulted from echocardiography. RESULTS: Physician interviews were successfully completed for 244 (49%) of 497 inpatients and 101 (30%) of 336 outpatients. Among patients with moderate or greater mitral regurgitation, the diagnosis of "clinically significant" mitral regurgitation was unsuspected in 5 (31%) of 16 outpatients and 28 (60%) of 47 inpatients. Among the patients with left ventricular wall motion abnormalities, the result was unsuspected in 7 (50%) of 14 outpatients and 18 (22%) of 81 inpatients. As assessed by chart review, echocardiography produced a definite new diagnosis in 25 inpatients (10%) and 5 outpatients (5%) and was responsible for changes in pharmacologic treatment in at least 16 inpatients (7%) and 2 outpatients (2%). CONCLUSIONS: The echocardiogram commonly provided information that was unexpected. This information provided a definite new diagnosis or treatment in a smaller proportion of the patients. Further research is necessary to define the appropriate yield that would warrant echocardiography on the basis of both clinical and cost-effectiveness criteria.
Krumholz, HM; Douglas, PS; Goldman, L; Waksmonski, C
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