A highly sensitive blood test to detect the level of protein troponin in blood has been developed by researchers from the UK to determine a person’s risk of having a heart attack. The paper is published in The Lancet.
The test is described as fast and convenient since it can be indicator of not performing the tedious heart attack diagnosis for two-thirds of the patients in emergency units, thereby decreasing the costs and procedures of admissions for acute chest pain given that hospital visits for chest pain in the UK are very common. The patients who might subsequently have a heart attack are meticulously monitored. However, most of these people do not actually ultimately have a heart attack. Therefore, the test will hopefully ease the procedures and the patients can be sent home instead of getting admitted to the institution.
“Until now there were no quick ways to rule out a heart attack within the emergency department,” said lead author Anoop Shah from the University of Edinburgh. “We have identified a cardiac troponin concentration (less than 5 nanograms per decilitre. ; <5 ng/L) below which patients are at very low risk of heart attack either during the admission or in the ensuing 30 days.”
The test was applied on 6,000 patients in several hospitals. It was found that 61 % of them – who had less than 5 ng/L of troponin in their blood – could have been safely discharged at early time itself.
“These patients are therefore potentially suitable for immediate and safe discharge from the emergency department,” said Shah. “These findings could dramatically reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and provide substantial cost savings for healthcare providers.”
Now, what about those having more than 5 ng/L of troponin? They were made to stay in the hospital for constant monitoring and tests. The findings indicate that they are 3 times more likely to have a heart attack than the other patients.
On the other hand, other medical experts are wary of the risks entailed in discharging patients early following a simple blood test. Commenting on the study, a team of physicians from emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand write:
“The ultimate validation for the safety and efficacy of discharging patients … will be the report of clinical outcomes after this threshold is implemented in routine clinical practice.”
“[W]hat further assessment, if any, is needed for those patients identified as low risk and suitable for early discharge? Trials are needed to assess the safety and effectiveness of clinical pathways that involve no further testing for such patients.”