TESTS TO DIAGNOSE HEART DISEASE: WHY WOULD A DOCTOR EVER USE TESTS THAT ARE NOT COMPLETELY ACCURATE?
TESTS TO DIAGNOSE HEART DISEASE: WHY WOULD A DOCTOR EVER USE TESTS THAT ARE NOT COMPLETELY ACCURATE?Although very sophisticated tests are available to help diagnose heart disease, no test is perfect. There is always a chance that a test will give incorrect information, no matter how carefully it is done or analyzed.Occasionally, a test may indicate that there is no problem when there really is one. This is called a false-negative result. Sometimes, a test may indicate that there is a problem when there really is not. This is called a false-positive result.When evaluating a patient’s problem, the physician must consider the likelihood of a test being accurate and whether the test result fits with other information about the patient.Why would a doctor ever use tests that are not completely accurate? To begin with, no test is 100 percent accurate, and all tests are open to interpretation. Furthermore, as just discussed, doctors usually try to gain as much information as possible from tests that have the least risk, expense, and inconvenience. The screening tests are used to identify whether you may need to have more extensive (and definitive) testing.In addition, even tests with incomplete accuracy can give important information. For example, a chest X-ray cannot directly show the coronary arteries, valves, and other complex structures of the heart, but it can show the size and shape of the heart, which may be very useful information to the doctor. Chest X-rays are generally quick, safe, and relatively inexpensive. Using the information from the chest X-ray, the doctor may be satisfied that all is well, or he or she may decide more precise tests are needed to determine the problem exactly.*331\252\8*