Screening does not lower heart risks for diabetics

Tue Apr 14, 2009 12:25pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Screening patients with type 2 diabetes for coronary artery disease did little to lower their rate of heart attacks or death compared with diabetics who got routine care, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

The study suggests routine screening tests of diabetics for heart problems would not be worth the enormous additional cost of such a screening program.

"I do not recommend blanket screening," Dr. Frans Wackers of Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, told a news briefing.

He said routine care in which diabetics are closely followed by their doctors for any signs of heart trouble was just as effective at catching heart disease, and a whole lot cheaper.

People with type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked with obesity, have a far greater risk of heart disease and some had expected that scanning these patients to check for clogged arteries would help identify dangerously blocked arteries just waiting to cause trouble.

To test this, Dr. Wackers and colleagues studied 1,123 patients with type 2 diabetes who had no symptoms of heart disease. About half of them were assigned to be screened for coronary artery disease with a non-invasive imaging method and the rest were followed closely by their doctors.

After an average follow-up of about 5 years, the team found only 2.9 percent of people in both groups had heart attacks or died from heart events, much lower than expected.

Rates of heart problems were about the same: 15 in the screening group and 17 in the group that was not screened.   Continued...