Objective To determine the efficacy and safety of trained cardiac technicians independently performing treadmill exercise stress tests as part of the assessment of patients with suspected angina pectoris.
Design Retrospective comparison of 250 exercise tests performed by cardiac technicians and 225 tests performed by experienced cardiology clinical assistants (general practitioners who perform regular NHS cardiology duties), and consultant cardiologists over the same time period.
Setting Regional cardiac centre with a dedicated cardiac chest pain clinic.
Patients All patients were referred by their general practitioners with a history of recent onset of chest pain, which was suspected to be angina pectoris.
Outcome measures Peak workload achieved, symptoms, indications for termination, complications.
Results The diagnostic yield of technician supervised tests (percentage positive or negative) was similar to that of medically supervised tests (76% v 69%, NS). The average peak workload achieved by patients was less by 1.2 mets (p < 0.005). This was probably due to more tests being terminated earlier due to chest pain and ST segment depression in the technician group compared with doctors (10% and 16% v 5% and 11% respectively, p = 0.06 and 0.07). One patient in the technician supervised group developed a supraventricular tachycardia during the recovery phase of the exercise test.
Conclusions Technician supervised stress testing is associated with a high diagnostic rate and low complication rate in patients with suspected ischaemic heart disease. Its efficacy is comparable to tests supervised by experienced doctors and its use should be encouraged.
- exercise stress testing
- cardiac technician
- angina pectoris
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