This piece on a new imaging technique to detect noncalcified arterial plaques is described as a Sun-Sentinel "staff report." In fact it is a word-for-word replication of a press release issued by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which employs the lead researchers.
It’s difficult to imagine why an editor would try to pass off a press release as a "staff report." Newsroom budgets are tight. But news services usually provide perfectly adequate news reports. Failing that, a house ad for the newspaper or a public service accouncement could have been published instead. Failing even that, the press release could have been described as a press release.
To label an unedited handout as a staff report is to abuse whatever trust the public has for the Sun-Sentinel.
The ratings above for the press release, by the way, represent a worthwhile exercise. How does an unedited press release measure up to HealthNewsReview.org criteria? Poorly–but it turns out no worse than previous Sun-Sentinel stories. Of the three articles previously reviewed, two earned only two stars as well.
The news release does not report a price for the imaging technique.
The press release fails to quantify the benefit of using this technique for diagnosis of noncalcified plaques.
The press release fails to account for the possiblity of false positives or false negatives, or other potential harms of using the diagnostic technique.
The study featured in the press release analyzed the efficacy of new imaging techniques to detect noncalcified arterial plaques. These findings were not connected to patient outcomes.
The press release failed to mention this limitation. And it did not give any caveats about drawing conclusions from a very small pilot study.
The news release does not exaggerate the frequency or severity of undiagnosed noncalcified plaque.
The only source is the press release itself, which is issued by the hospital that employs the researchers involved. No other sources were consulted for this press release.
The press release describes the two treatments currently used to detect arterial plaques and heart disease risk–a stress test and angiography.
The news release says nothing about availability of the experimental procedure.
The press release correctly describes the pairing of voxel analysis and multi-detector computed tomography angiography as novel.