Researchers Say Doctors Make Wrong Assessment on Heart Disease Risks

A new study revealed that doctors could be wrong in assessing the risk of heart attack. Researchers say doctors are guilty of wrongly estimating the risks of heart disease. These findings raised concerns because an inaccurate figure could spell an imbalance between the benefit and harm of treatment decisions.

Dr. Francisco Buitrago from the Centro de Salud Universitario La Paz in Badajoz, Spain says, “Overprediction would inevitably lead to a disproportionate number of patients being targeted for treatment, affecting healthcare resources and potentially exposing patients to unnecessary treatment.”

He adds, “Similarly, any systematic underprediction of risk could potentially deny patients much needed treatment.”

To assess the risk of heart disease, doctors use the Framingham equation, an equation derived from a government-led research in 1948. The equation picked up on factors such as age, cholesterol, gender and blood pressure, among others, to determine the chances for heart disease.

But Dr. Buitrago and his colleagues dispute this, saying the assessed risk derived from the Framingham equation doesn't match up to actual results in places outside the US, particularly Spain.

For this study, the researchers looked in the medical records of nearly 450 patients aged 35 to 74 with no signs of heart disease or diabetes at the start of the study. If the Framingham equation is used, 12 percent of the participants should have suffered from heart attack within the ten-year period.But as it shows, only 7 percent of the patients had heart disease.

Ralph D'Agostino criticized the Spanish researchers' methods. “They only had 30 people that developed events,” he says. “It's a very small sample so the whole thing is basically noise.” He added that the study does not apply to Americans. Mr. D'Agostino is a mathematics professor at Boston University as well as a Framingham investigator.

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