Some noninvasive tests are better than others at detecting coronary artery disease in women

Research Activities, August 2012, No. 384

Noninvasive tests (NIT) that produce images of how well the heart is functioning, such as echocardiography and single proton emission computed tomography, more accurately diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD) in women with symptoms suspicious of CAD than electrocardiography, which monitors heartbeats to detect restricted blood flow. That's the conclusion of a new research review from AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program. The review, Noninvasive Technologies for the Diagnosis of Coronary Artery Disease in Women, found there is insufficient evidence from studies to determine what clinical or demographic factors may influence the diagnostic accuracy, risk determinations, prognostic value, treatment decisions, clinical outcomes, or harms associated with NITs for CAD in women.

Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality for women in the United States, and claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Approximately one in three women has some form of this disease. It is estimated that 8.1 million women currently have a history of heart-related issues. Early detection and treatment can potentially reduce deaths attributed to CAD. The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association recommend NITs for symptomatic women who are at intermediate to high risk for CAD, but not for women who are at low risk.

The AHRQ research review supports these recommendations. The review also found that more research is needed to determine the levels of accuracy based on age, race, sex, and body size on test performance, and the impact of these tests on clinical decisionmaking and patient outcomes.

To access this review and other materials that explore the effectiveness and risks of treatment options for various conditions, visit AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program Web site at

Current as of August 2012
Internet Citation: Some noninvasive tests are better than others at detecting coronary artery disease in women: Research Activities, August 2012, No. 384. August 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.