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What's the Usefulness of CRP Testing?

Measuring C-reactive protein in the blood may -- or may not -- indicate that a person is at risk for heart disease.

CRP Test Not Recommended for Everyone continued...

CRP testing might be useful when a doctor is undecided about how aggressively to treat a patient who is considered to be at 'intermediate' risk for a heart attack (meaning having a 10% to 20% risk for heart attack in the next 10 years based on his or her health status and history). In such a case, elevated CRP levels might cause a doctor to decide on more intensive treatment than he would have without CRP results.

Currently, CRP testing is not recommended for the general population. "But it's being pushed and pushed, and people are being led into believing that CRP is a lifesaver for everybody and it's just not," says Shah, who routinely receives requests from his patients for the test. "Patients are often misled into believing that all of a sudden there's this unique marker that's going to determine whether they live or die."

Shah calls the test an interesting but not yet clinically usable tool. "If future studies show that even if all other risk factors are under good control but CRP is high and that that lowering CRP is going to create clinical benefit, then there would be a reason to measure CRP, but we don't have that information yet," he says.

"I'm not saying that five years from now when we have more data we won't change our recommendations," he tells WebMD. "We should keep our eyes and ears opened for more information before jumping on the bandwagon."

The bottom line? Stay tuned.

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Reviewed on February 07, 2005

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