The research, published in The Lancet medical journal, shows the high levels of accuracy of the high-sensitivity test, which determines within 30 minutes whether a patient with chest pain is actually suffering from a heart attack.
After evaluating the most effective way to use a blood test to measure troponin (a protein released from the heart during a heart attack) the researchers determined the threshold at which they could rule out a heart attack and safely send people home.
According to the British Heart Foundation, around 1 million visits to A&E departments in the U.K. per year are because of chest pain but only around 188,000 of those people have a heart attack.
At the moment anybody presenting with acute chest pain at hospital has to have several hours of testing, or stay overnight, while doctors determine whether they are at risk of a heart attack or suffering from a less serious problem, such as heartburn, indigestion or muscle strain.
The new research builds on a study carried out earlier this year, which showed that the same blood test could double diagnosis rates of heart attacks in women. Diagnosis rates were improved by using different criteria for a positive test in men and women, increasing the rate of diagnosis in women to one in five (only one in 10 women were diagnosed using the standard test).
Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “A faster, more accurate diagnosis of whether chest pain is caused by a heart attack would be better for patients and save the NHS money. We want to ensure no heart attack diagnosis is missed but we equally don’t want to see people go through unnecessary tests and spend extended periods in hospital unless it is essential. No-one wants to be in hospital unless they have to be. What’s important about this study is that the evidence shows you can quickly and confidently rule out a heart attack without compromising patient safety.”
The research team are hoping international cardiology guidelines will be rewritten to recommend the test for use by hospitals within 18 months.
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