Testing patients for high levels of chemicals called C-reactive protein to determine whether they are at risk for heart disease provides little new information to doctors, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers found that checking for the traditional indicators of heart problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking remain more reliable.
The C-reactive protein is believed to reflect inflammation, which may play a role in the development of heart disease.
Looking for the protein "adds little to the predictive value of standard coronary risk factors," the study said.
John Danesh of the University of Cambridge in Britain, tested 2,459 blood samples of heart patients or people who died of heart disease from Reykjavik, Iceland.
When their levels of C-reactive protein were compared to those of almost 4,000 volunteers who did not suffer from heart problems, he concluded the test was only "a relatively moderate predictor of coronary heart disease."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association recently told doctors it was "reasonable" to check C-reactive protein levels in patients to assess the risk of heart disease.
Danesh and his colleagues said groups that recommend the test should rethink their advice.