Scientists have developed a revolutionary new blood test for detecting a heart attack that could speed up diagnosis and help patients get out of hospital more quickly. The test, developed by researchers from King’s College London and tested across Europe, is quicker than the standard test and can rapidly rule out a heart attack in more people. Currently, people suspected of having a heart attack are tested for high levels of a protein called troponin in their blood as soon as they arrive in an emergency department, and again after three hours researchers said. Depending on the type of troponin test used, up to 85 per cent of people need to remain in hospital for further tests in order to rule out a heart attack, they said.
The new test uses similar technology to the troponin test, but analyses the level of a protein called cardiac myosin-binding protein C (cMyC). Levels of cMyC in the blood increase more rapidly after a heart attack, and to a higher extent, than troponin, meaning that the test can rule out a heart attack in a higher proportion of patients straight away. “Big heart attacks are often easy to diagnose with an ECG but smaller heart attacks, which are more common and also life-threatening, are more challenging,” said Professor Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.
“The troponin test has been used for around 20 years and is currently the most powerful tool we have for diagnosing such heart attacks, but there is always room for improvement,” said Samani, who described the potential importance of the new test in the journal Circulation. “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,” he said.