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New Blood Test Evaluation Identifies More Heart Attacks

Blood test (NIH)

National Institutes of Health

A more sensitive blood test protocol developed at University of Edinburgh and other research institutes in the U.K. could help identify heart attacks in thousands of patients who would otherwise have gone undiagnosed. The research team published its findings this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (paid subscription required).

The standard blood test measures a protein called troponin that is released when heart cells are damaged during a heart attack. When patients are admitted to the hospital with chest pain, the blood test is taken. The researchers evaluating the more-sensitive test detected troponin at levels four-times lower than the previous standard test, which then identified patients with smaller amounts of heart damage.

The research team analyzed data from more than 2,000 patients who had been admitted to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh with chest pain and suspected heart attack. The team’s evaluations indicate that the test detected heart attacks in one-third more patients who were admitted to hospital with chest pain than previous tests.

The researchers report patients were more likely to see a specialist and to receive better treatment following the introduction of the more sensitive test. After this test was introduced into clinical practice, the rate of readmission to the hospital with — or dying from — another heart attack within the following year was cut in half.

Team leader Nicholas Mills of the university’s British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science says lowering the troponin threshold on the test is not without controversy. “We provide compelling evidence that adopting a more sensitive test and lowering the threshold for detection of heart muscle damage is appropriate,” says Mills, “and will substantially improve the outcome of patients with chest pain and suspected heart attack.”

Read more: New Blood Test Indicates Heart Failure Potential

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