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High Sensitivity Blood Test Aids Emergency Diagnosis of Heart Conditions

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 29 Nov 2023
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Image: A new blood test can improve diagnosis for patients with a heart muscle injury (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: A new blood test can improve diagnosis for patients with a heart muscle injury (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Troponin, a protein released into the bloodstream during heart attacks or other heart injuries, has long been a focal point in medical diagnostics. Traditionally, various troponin blood tests have aided doctors in diagnosing heart conditions, especially in individuals experiencing chest pain and similar symptoms. Now, researchers have discovered a new method of measuring troponin levels, offering the potential to reduce future heart attacks in high-risk patients by 10% over five years. This advanced test is distinguished by its heightened accuracy in detecting even minimal troponin levels in the bloodstream, surpassing the capabilities of older tests.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK) conducted an extensive study to evaluate the effectiveness of this innovative test. They analyzed health data from nearly 50,000 individuals with a suspected heart attack who visited ten emergency departments across Scotland between 2013 and 2016. Using general health records, the team tracked these individuals over five years. The new test identified over 10,000 patients with elevated troponin levels, indicative of heart injury. Notably, this high-sensitivity test detected subtle warning signs, identifying about 20% of these cases, which would have been missed by traditional tests.

The most significant impact of the test was observed in patients with heart muscle injuries caused by other cardiac conditions, such as heart failure, valve issues, and arrhythmias. Analysis showed that these patients experienced nearly a 10% reduction in subsequent hospital admissions and mortality over the following five years when tested with the new method, compared to those who underwent the older, less sensitive testing. This advancement in detecting heart injuries, particularly in cases that might have previously been overlooked, could enable more patients to receive specialized cardiac care, potentially preventing more severe health incidents in the future.

“In the past, clinicians could have been falsely reassured by the results of the less sensitive troponin test, discharging patients that appeared to not have heart disease,” said Dr Ken Lee, Clinical Lecturer in Cardiology at the University of Edinburgh. “This new high sensitivity test is the tool they needed, prompting them to look deeper and helping them to identify and treat both heart attacks and less obvious heart problems. In our trial, introducing this test led to an impressive reduction in the number of future heart attacks and deaths seen in this at-risk group.”

“Medical professionals in emergency departments need the most efficient and accurate tools to look after people,” added Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study. “This particularly applies to those who arrive with a suspected heart attack. Such a time-sensitive and life-threatening condition requires the very best diagnostic tests. It is very encouraging to see that the new test trialed here is better at predicting long-term outcomes for these patients, whether they had a heart attack or a different kind of heart injury. This can lead to improved care for such patients.”

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