[Evaluation of the appropriateness of prescribing exercise tests]

Enrico Orsini, Francesco Mazzuoli, Leonardo Odoguardi, Mirco Magnani, Roberto Lorenzoni
Italian Heart Journal. Supplement: Official Journal of the Italian Federation of Cardiology 2002, 3 (6): 624-9

BACKGROUND: We evaluated the appropriateness of the indications to exercise testing 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 1158 prescriptions (population: 822 males, 336 females; mean age 60 years, range 16-82 years). Prescriptions were of class I (appropriate) in 38.9%, of class II (of doubtful appropriateness) in 52.5% and of class III (inappropriate) in 8.6% of the cases. In 14.2% of the cases the exam was abnormal: it was abnormal in 35.5% of class I, in 26.6% of class II and in 23% of class III exams (p < 0.05). The exam was useful in 51.6% of the cases; it was useful in 62.4% of class I, in 50.2% of class II and in 13% of class III exams (p < 0.05). Cardiologists required 596/1158 tests (51.5%). Their indications were included in class I in 45.6%, in class II in 49.7% and in class III in 4.7% of the cases vs 31.7, 55.5 e 12.8% of non-cardiologists' prescriptions (p < 0.05). The test was abnormal in 35.7% of cardiologist vs 23.5% of non-cardiologist-prescribed examinations (odds ratio 1.81, 95% confidence interval 1.4-2.34; p < 0.05); the test was useful in 64.4% of cardiologist vs 38.2% of non-cardiologist-prescribed exams (odds ratio 2.92, 95% confidence interval 2.3-3.71; p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: In Tuscany and Umbria, Italy, less than half of exercise testing procedures are appropriate; appropriately-prescribed exams are more often abnormal and useful; cardiologist-prescribed exams are significantly more appropriate, abnormal and useful.

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