Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: How can a stress test be wrong?

Q. How is it possible for someone with significant coronary artery disease to perform well on a cardiac stress test? Wouldn't there be some signs of trouble?

A. We rely on tests to spot health problems early, so it's unnerving when we hear about someone like newsman Tim Russert, who suddenly died from heart disease soon after passing a stress test.

But no medical test is 100% predictive. The stress test — while still a tried-and-true way to screen for heart problems — is far from foolproof, and it shouldn't be viewed as providing the final word on someone's risk for having a heart attack.

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