New Test Distinguishes Chest Pain from Heart Attack

The Lancet has revealed a new blood test that not only diagnoses heart attack quickly, it doubles the diagnosis rate of heart attacks in women, and avoids unnecessary tests and stress from non-cardiac chest pain.


New research published in The Lancet reveals there is a new blood test, the high sensitivity cardiac troponin test, measures low levels of troponin (a protein released from the heart during heart attacks) quickly and safely.


Since more than 7 million people go to emergency centers presenting with chest pain, the test will be an enormous help in distinguishing whether the cause of the chest pain is a heart attack or not, easing stress for patients.


Dr. Aroop Shah, lead author of the study, commented that until now there has been no quick way to rule out heart attack in emergency rooms. Said Dr. Shah, “We have identified a cardiac troponin concentration below which patients are at very low risk of heart attack either during the admission or in the ensuing 30 days. These patients are therefore potentially suitable for immediate and safe discharge from the emergency department. These findings could dramatically reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and provide substantial cost savings for health care providers.”


Previous guidelines for patients with chest pain called for admission to the hospital to be tested for troponin levels and wait long periods for repeat testing. The new test is much more sensitive to lower troponin levels, allowing for faster results.


The research study tested over 6,000 people presenting at the hospital with chest pain. When test results showed troponin levels of less than 5 ng, subsequent exams a year later proved they had a three time lower risk of heart attack and cardiac death than those with higher troponin levels.


The results proved that those who tested negative for a heart attack by lower troponin levels could have been discharged safely and quickly.


The British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, found that the same test could also double the diagnosis rate of heart attacks in women. Standard testing has only diagnosed 1 in 10 women previously, while the new test improves diagnosis to 1 in 5.


Prof. Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at BHF, says “a faster, more accurate diagnosis will benefit both patients and health services”, and he pointed out that “while it is important not to miss a heart attack diagnosis, it is better for people not to spend time in the hospital and undergo unnecessary tests.” He expressed his belief that the new test will be of benefit without compromising safety.


The outcome of this new study and test will have an impact on how patients presenting with chest pain are treated in emergency rooms, and improve patient care and outcome.


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Release ID: 96452