Researchers at the Cardiovascular Institute (CVI) at Rhode Island, The Miriam and Newport hospitals developed the simple blood test that can enable physicians to more quickly and accurately assess a patient's need for an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD).
"This is the first test of its kind; never before have clinicians been able to accurately assess a patient's risk of sudden cardiac death by performing a blood test," said Samuel C Dudley, chief of cardiology at the CVI.
"The primary prevention model for at-risk patients in the US is to implant an ICD before a cardiac event happens. While it's better to be safe, this has led to widespread overuse of ICDs throughout the US and abroad," Dudley said.
"With this blood test, we can refine the need for such a device, and instead implant the cardiac defibrillators only in the most severe cases of sudden cardiac death risk," Dudley said.
Currently, risk assessments are determined by measuring the fraction of blood ejected from the heart in any one heartbeat, the ejection fraction.
When the ejection fraction falls below 35 per cent, a patient may benefit from an ICD. It is believed that approximately 60 per cent of patients who receive defibrillators as a result of these assessments may not actually need one.
The new blood test will determine more accurately which patients do in fact need the defibrillator.
The blood test is in a pilot phase and will be validated in a large, multi-site trial led by Dudley and other researchers at Lifespan's CVI anticipated to start this fall.
Sudden cardiac death is an unexpected death caused by loss of heart function, or sudden cardiac arrest. It is the most common cause of natural death in the US, resulting in approximately 325,000 adult deaths in the US each year.