[Evaluation of the appropriateness of prescribing echocardiography]

Fabio Lattanzi, Mirco Magnani, Lauro Cortigiani, Sara Mandorla, Alfredo Zuppiroli, Roberto Lorenzoni
Italian Heart Journal. Supplement: Official Journal of the Italian Federation of Cardiology 2002, 3 (6): 613-8

BACKGROUND: We evaluated the appropriateness of indications to echocardiography for ambulatory patients performed during 4 weeks in 21 laboratories in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy.

METHODS: We collected the following data: the appropriateness of the prescription (according to the guidelines of the Italian Federation of Cardiology), the prescribing physician (cardiologist vs non-cardiologist), the synthetic result (normal vs abnormal) and the clinical utility (useful vs useless) of each exam.

RESULTS: We evaluated 2848 prescriptions (patients: 1450 males, 1398 females; mean age 62 years, range 15-90 years). The indications to test were of class I (appropriate) in 43.6%, of class II (of doubtfully appropriateness) in 36.8% and of class III (inappropriate) in 19.6% of the cases. In 60.8% of the cases the exam was considered abnormal. In particular, an abnormal result was found in 83.8% of class I, in 56.6% of class II and in 17.8% of class III exams (p < 0.05). The exam was considered useful in 51.1% of the cases. In particular, a useful result was found in 78.9% of class I, in 39% of class II and in 12.1% of class III exams (p < 0.05). Cardiologists prescribed 856/2848 tests (30%). Their indications were of class I in 58.8%, of class II in 29.8% and of class III in 11.4% of the cases vs 37, 39.9 and 23.1% of non-cardiologists' prescriptions (p < 0.05). Abnormal findings were found in 74.3% of cardiologist- vs 55% of non-cardiologist-prescribed examinations (odds ratio 2.45, 95% confidence interval 2.04-2.92; p < 0.05); similarly, clinically useful information could be derived from 63.1% of cardiologist- vs 46% of non-cardiologist-prescribed examinations (odds ratio 2.07, 95% confidence interval 1.75-2.45; p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: In Tuscany and Umbria, Italy, about half of the prescriptions for echocardiography can be considered inappropriate; appropriately prescribed exams more often provide abnormal and useful results; cardiologist-prescribed exams are significantly more appropriate, abnormal and useful.

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