New test for heart attacks may be able to prevent misdiagnoses

Many Chicago residents will suffer from a heart problem or a heart attack in their lifetimes. An accurate and timely diagnosis of a heart condition is imperative to help a person recover. However, when a patient isn’t adequately treated or receives a misdiagnosis, a patient could be at risk of suffering serious health problems or even death.

About 10 percent of emergency room visits in the U.S. are prompted from suspected heart attacks. To properly diagnose heart attacks and other heart problems, doctors conduct a variety of patient assessments including electrocardiographs and blood tests. These tests can sometimes take up to three hours before results are revealed and analyzed. However, some researchers believe that they have developed a new test that can reduce the amount of time it takes to diagnose heart attacks to only one hour.

The new test eliminates the need for extended patient monitoring in many cases because it can more effectively screen for a common biochemical change that indicates a heart attack. The test uses an algorithm which identifies heart attacks by comparing a baseline level of the biochemical marker high sensitivity cardiac troponin (hs-cTn) and changes in the level within one hour of the initial test.

The researchers recruited almost 900 patients to study the test. Data from one half of the patients was used to develop the initial algorithm, which was then validated in the remaining patients. Of the 17 percent of heart patients that were actually suffering from heart attacks, over 95 percent of them survived for 30 days after the test. The researchers concluded that 75 percent of patients who think they are suffering from heart attacks may be diagnosed quickly by the new test, and therefore, not require extended emergency care. Additionally, the test may be another tool hospitals can use to reduce misdiagnoses.

The researchers note that the results of this initial study are extremely encouraging. Hospitals will be able to more efficiently move patients through the process of emergency care and treatment.

Source: Medical News Today, “Heart attack test gives diagnosis in 1 hour,” Catharine Paddock, Aug. 16, 2012