A new blood test helps emergency room doctors more quickly assess whether or not someone is having a heart attack. The test is a more sensitive blood test for cardiac troponin than what emergency physicians have been using, according to new research reported in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. Doctors are able to use the test to measure the protein released into the blood when the heart is damaged.

“We did not miss any heart attacks using this test in this population,” said lead author Rebecca Vigen, MD, MSCS, a cardiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  “The test also allowed us to determine faster that many patients who had symptoms of a heart attack were not having a heart attack than if we had relied on the traditional test.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved this high-sensitivity troponin test which currently is being used in Europe.  The new test enabled doctors to successfully rule out immediately that 30 percent of patients who presented to the emergency department with chest pains and shortness of breath did not have a heart attack, with another 25 percent at one hour. The study participants included 536 patients admitted to a Dallas emergency department with heart attack symptoms.  The new procedure ruled out 83.9 percent of patients compared to a conventional test which ruled out 80.4 percent of patients.

“We anticipate that this procedure will allow many patients with chest pain to be given a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ diagnosis of whether they are having a heart attack faster,” said Dr. Vigen, who hopes this new and more precise test will have widespread use. She added that ‘the vast majority of patients who come to the hospital with symptoms are not having a heart attack, so there’s a real benefit to be able reassure them ‘you’re not having a heart attack,’ and then to start looking into the other things that might be causing the symptoms.  It’s also helpful because if they are having a heart attack, doctors may start the appropriate treatment faster,” she said.

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