Highly praised test for heart disease loses some aura

October 14, 2005|By DAVID KOHN | DAVID KOHN,SUN REPORTER

If medical tests were celebrities, the one that measures the C-reactive protein would be Angelina Jolie: very cool. In recent years, researchers have lauded the test's ability to find otherwise undetected heart disease.

But a new study by a University of Maryland cardiologist casts doubt on CRP.

The paper, in this week's Archives of Internal Medicine, found that CRP levels were closely tied to known risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, obesity and hypertension. In other words, the test rarely tells doctors something new.

"The reason you're likely to have high CRP is because you have these other risk factors too," said Dr. Michael Miller, the lead author.

CRP is a chemical that the liver releases in response to inflammation.

The new study analyzed data from 15,000 people in a national health survey. A quarter of the subjects had high CRP. Of that group, three-quarters of the men and two-thirds of the women had at least one other risk factor for heart disease.

david.kohn@baltsun.com

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