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Study: CT scans rule out heart attacks faster


4 Star

Study: CT scans rule out heart attacks faster

Our Review Summary

This was a well organized story explaining the results of a study comparing two approaches for determining whether patients who present at the emergency room with chest pain are actually having a heart attack. 


This story could have been improved with a few edits. 

  1. It does not comment on the limitations on drawing conclusions from study results that have only been presented at a conference and have not been subjected to peer review.  
  2. It never listed the radiation risks of standard testing – only that of CT scans. It compared CT with mammograms and dental x-rays but that’s not what’s being compared here.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story included cost estimates for both treatments.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story notes there was no difference in the diagnostic value of the two approaches but does note a difference in time and costs. 

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides a somewhat confusing and overly complicated picture of the risks of the CT scans without putting the risks into context with the standard diagnostic procedures.   While there is a detailed listing of radiation exposure to the CT scan, no information is provided on the burden of the standard testing.  Noting the radiation exposure in millisieverts without comparative information does little to inform the reader of the relative risks of the two approaches studied.  The link between radiation exposure and the risk of developing cancer is perhaps beyond the scope of the story.  A simple citation (for example – ) would have helped the readers better understand the size of the risk.  

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

While the story states that a more definitive study is underway, it does not comment on the limitations on drawing conclusions from study results that have only been presented at a conference and have not been subjected to peer review.  


Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.  

That said, since a numeric estimate of the number of people who go to the emergency with chest pain was given, it would have been helpful to provide a comparable estimate for the percentage that actually are having a heart attack rather than putting this as ‘a small fraction’.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story does provide comments from experts in the field not associated with the study.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The focus of the story was a study of different options for heart attack imaging tests.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story compared cardiac CT and radioactive dye for the diagnosis of heart attack in individuals who presented with chest pain in the emergency room.  While the story stated that CT scans are "increasingly used" and that the study was in 16 big medical centers, we aren’t given any sense of how widespread the use is actually is and no sense of what happens beyond "big medical centers."

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The increasing use of CT scans was clear in the story.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory


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