Heart attacks could be diagnosed more effectively by using a sensitive test that can measure the protein, troponin, which leaks out of damaged heart cells into the blood stream. The test could also help patients who have already suffered a small heart attack and are at a high risk of dying from a second attack.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh used a new test to detect very low levels of troponin, which is released into the blood when heart muscle cells have been damaged. The protein can be measured to find out if patients suffering chest pains have suffered a heart attack.
Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:
"This promising study shows us that by using a more sensitive test for heart muscle damage than is currently being used, more patients who come to hospital with chest pain could be identified as having suffered a small heart attack.
"Over recent years it has become clear that people who suffer heart pain but only a small amount of heart damage are at a very high risk of going on to have a larger, potentially fatal heart attack if left untreated. This test will help doctors identify this vulnerable group of patients. If further studies corroborate these findings there will be considerable pressure on the NHS to adopt the new test as the standard for patients with chest pain."
The research was conducted by the University of Edinburgh, which is one of the British Heart Foundation’s Centres of Research Excellence. Results from the study are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.