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Cardiol Rev. 2000 Nov-Dec;8(6):354-60.

Noninvasive diagnostic testing of coronary artery disease in women.

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  • 1Division of Cardiology, University of California, San Francisco, 505 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143-0124, USA.


Noninvasive diagnostic testing of coronary artery disease (CAD) is widely recognized as an area that is less studied and less accurate with regard to women than to men. Accurate and safe diagnostic testing constitutes the crucial link between early detection and optimal management of CAD. Many noninvasive diagnostic modalities are available to the clinician, including traditional electrocardiography, the relatively novel imaging of echocardiography, the emerging nuclear perfusion technology of electron beam computed tomography, exercise testing, and pharmacologic testing. The most accurate and cost-effective diagnostic method for patients depends on the patients' pretest likelihood of the disease as determined by factors such as sex, age, and cardiovascular risk factors. Noninvasive tests are most useful in the diagnosis of CAD in patients with intermediate pretest likelihood of CAD. Patients with low pretest likelihood of CAD with normal electrocardiograms may benefit from noninvasive tests or a watchful waiting strategy. Patients with a high pretest likelihood of CAD may benefit greatly from direct referral to coronary angiography. Among the noninvasive diagnostic methods, exercise electrocardiography is the most studied and least accurate with regard to women patients. Electrocardiography improves in accuracy when combined with imaging techniques such as echocardiography or nuclear single photon emission computed tomography. Combining data from all studies has shown that exercise echocardiography yields the highest diagnostic accuracy in women among all of the exercise stress tests. Patients who are unable to achieve maximal exercise capacity may undergo pharmacologic testing using dipyridamole or adenosine radionuclide perfusion or dobutamine echocardiography. Recent development of electron beam computed tomography accurately detects coronary artery calcium but has not been validated yet as a standard diagnostic test for CAD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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