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J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2002 Jun;15(6):640-6.

Limited cardiac ultrasound examination for cost-effective echocardiographic referral.

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Department of Cardiology, Scripps-Mercy Medical Center, San Diego, CA, USA.



Although a standard echocardiogram is frequently requested and requires significant resources, few data exist on methods to improve referral for this examination. Therefore, we sought to determine the diagnostic value of a limited echocardiographic examination and to predict the cost-effectiveness of a limited imaging strategy on echocardiographic referral.


A limited echocardiographic examination was reviewed for abnormalities and compared with standard echocardiographic findings. Assuming an imaging strategy in which a normal limited echocardiographic examination would negate the need for standard echocardiography, we calculated the diagnostic yields, the number of full echocardiographic studies eliminated, and the number of abnormal cases missed. We also stratified data by patient age (< or > or = 65 years), inpatient versus outpatient status, gender, referral diagnosis, and referring physician subspecialty.


In 151 outpatients, overall diagnostic yield was 47% (95% CI [39%, 55%]), and was lower in those younger than 65 years, in women, and in noncardiologist referral. In 155 inpatients, yields were 75% (95% CI [67%, 83%]) and were also related to age, but not to gender, diagnosis, and physician subspecialty. Sensitivity, specificity, negative and positive predictive values, and accuracy for the limited echocardiographic examination was 77%, 72%, 67%, 81%, and 75%, respectively. The limited imaging strategy negated 70% of studies in the outpatient group younger than 65 years, with a less than 5% chance of missing a clinically significant finding.


A limited echocardiographic imaging strategy is most cost-effective when used in young outpatients, where it can result in a substantial reduction in referral for standard echocardiography while rarely missing findings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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