Improved blood test could help to identify those patients with heart disease most at risk of a future heart attack

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. 

A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
The death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction. Full medical glossary
Tissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. Full medical glossary
Compounds that form the structure of muscles and other tissues in the body, as well as comprising enzymes and hormones. Full medical glossary
A group of proteins found in muscle. Full medical glossary