A blood test that detects a heart attack more quickly could speed up diagnosis and save the NHS millions every year.
Developed by a team from King’s College London, the new test is quicker than the current one and can rapidly rule out a heart attack in more people. It means the test could reassure patients in A&E departments and free up bed space in UK hospitals.
It’s estimated over two thirds of people who go to A&E complaining of chest pain have not had a heart attack. But all receive two tests: an ECG and a blood test to measure the levels of a substance called troponin to check the heart for damage.
The new test uses similar technology to the troponin test but analyses the level of a different protein – one called cardiac myosin-binding protein C (cMyC). Levels of this substance increase more rapidly after a heart attack than troponin, meaning the test can rule out a heart attack in a higher proportion of patients straight away.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation pointed out that big heart attacks are often easy to diagnose with ECG but smaller heart attacks, which are more common, are more challenging to confirm.
“These initial results with the cMyC test look very promising for patients, who could be more quickly diagnosed and treated or reassured and sent home. This test could also allow hospitals to save hundreds of thousands of pounds by freeing up valuable hospital beds. However further research is necessary before it can be recommended as a replacement for the troponin test.”
Dr Tom Kaier, one of the lead researchers at St Thomas’ Hospital, London said:
“It is important for both patients and doctors to work out early who has had a heart attack and who hasn’t. We often see patients in hospital who have to stay for further tests as a result of a mildly abnormal blood test – this is stressful and often unnecessary.
“Our research shows that the new test has the potential to reassure many thousands more patients with a single test, improving their experience and freeing up valuable hospital beds in A&E departments and wards across the country.”
The researchers say they hope to see the new test rolled out in hospitals in the next 5 years.