Your doc might think a CT angiogram is a great way to peek into your arteries to determine what kind of heart risks you might be facing.
Sure, it's great for him -- it helps him pay his bills.
But for you, it's not so great -- especially if you don't have any heart symptoms. Not only are these scans useless when it comes to saving lives or preventing heart problems in healthy patients, but they also lead to more tests, drug prescriptions, and even invasive catheters.
Researchers compared 1,000 Korean angiogram patients with no history of chest pain to 1,000 similar patients who got only a standard medical exam without a CT screening.
More than 20 percent of the scan patients learned they had the signs of atherosclerosis. One third of them ended up on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, and 40 percent ended up on the dangerous aspirin-a-day routine.
By comparison, only 10 percent of patients with "normal" scans and 10 percent of those who weren't scanned at all were put on those meds.
After 90 days, however, there was absolutely no difference in the rate of serious heart problems in either group, according to the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Eighteen months later, it still made no difference at all. Just one patient in each group experienced any kind of serious heart problem in that time.
There were a lot of numbers in there, so let me break it down for you. These screenings don't save lives. But they could help ruin more than a few -- because the treatments and even the test itself come with big risks.
CT angiograms deliver up to 600 times the radiation of a single x-ray. At a time when we should be cutting down on exposure, these things give you more.
Patients who get them are also injected with a special contrasting dye that can lead to allergic reactions and even kidney damage.
But wait, there's more! If your unnecessary angiogram leads to a statin prescription, you could face everything from muscle pain to sexual side effects.
And patients who gobble down aspirin for their heart can literally ruin their stomach.
I'm not sure why docs keep telling patients to swallow aspirin for heart health in the first place -- studies have repeatedly found that so-called aspirin therapy is a myth.
Bottom line: If you're not experiencing heart problems, think twice before you get scanned.