New study fuels debate about the value of tests. 

A 15-year study of nearly 5000 people has found an enlarged heart chamber is a better predictor of cardiac death than a widely used screening tool, the coronary artery calcium score.

The result fuels an ongoing debate about the value of tests to gauge the risk of heart attack in people with no symptoms of heart disease.

The new study ran a toothcomb over data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a US trial of nearly 7000 people with no known heart problems that began in 2000.

People aged 45-84 from communities including Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles received questionnaires and a battery of tests, such as cholesterol and blood sugar, then were followed for up to 15 years to see who got heart failure or heart attacks or died from heart disease.

The authors of the current study were particularly interested in two of the more hi-tech tests that some of the MESA participants received.

Led by Nadine Kawel-Boehm, from Kantonsspital Graubuenden in Chur, Switzerland, they carved out a subset of 4988 people who had CT scans to measure their coronary artery calcium score. They also had MRI scans to check the size of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber.

Both tests have quite a bit to say about heart health.

Read the full story in Cosmos magazine here