Current guidelines allow substantial discretion in use of noninvasive cardiac imaging for patients without acute myocardial infarction (AMI) who are being evaluated for ischemia. Imaging use may affect downstream testing and outcomes.
To characterize hospital variation in use of noninvasive cardiac imaging and the association of imaging use with downstream testing, interventions, and outcomes.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Cross-sectional study of hospitals using 2010 administrative data from Premier, Inc, including patients with suspected ischemia on initial evaluation who were seen in the emergency department, observation unit, or inpatient ward; received at least 1 cardiac biomarker test on day 0 or 1; and had a principal discharge diagnosis for a common cause of chest discomfort, a sign or symptom of cardiac ischemia, and/or a comorbidity associated with coronary disease. We excluded patients with AMI.
Main Outcomes and Measures
At each hospital, the proportion of patients who received noninvasive imaging to identify cardiac ischemia and the subsequent rates of admission, coronary angiography, and revascularization procedures.
We identified 549 078 patients at 224 hospitals. The median (interquartile range) hospital noninvasive imaging rate was 19.8% (10.9%-27.7%); range, 0.2% to 55.7%. Median hospital imaging rates by quartile were Q1, 6.0%; Q2, 15.9%; Q3, 23.5%; Q4, 34.8%. Compared with Q1, Q4 hospitals had higher rates of admission (Q1, 32.1% vs Q4, 40.0%), downstream coronary angiogram (Q1, 1.2% vs Q4, 4.9%), and revascularization procedures (Q1, 0.5% vs Q4, 1.9%). Hospitals in Q4 had a lower yield of revascularization for noninvasive imaging (Q1, 7.6% vs Q4, 5.4%) and for angiograms (Q1, 41.2% vs Q4, 38.8%). P <.001 for all comparisons. Readmission rates to the same hospital for AMI within 2 months were not different by quartiles (P = .51). Approximately 23% of variation in imaging use was attributable to the behavior of individual hospitals.
Conclusions and Relevance
Hospitals vary in their use of noninvasive cardiac imaging in patients with suspected ischemia who do not have AMI. Hospitals with higher imaging rates did not have substantially different rates of therapeutic interventions or lower readmission rates for AMI but were more likely to admit patients and perform angiography.