Scientists from King’s College London have developed a new blood test that is more sensitive in detecting damaged heart muscle caused by a heart attack.
Currently, patients with chest pain are responsible for 2.2 million admissions to Emergency Departments every year. Of those suspected of having suffered a heart attack, only a small proportion are shown as having diagnostic changes on a heart trace or ECG. This means that their assessment is reliant on the use of blood tests measuring biomarkers such as cardiac Troponin (cTn) to exclude a heart attack.
Troponin is a heart muscle protein released upon injury and can be detected after heart attacks or heart muscle inflammation. As a result, doctors are able to rule-out heart attacks with a single blood test, as patients with undetectable levels of cardiac Troponin are classified as low risk and are immediately discharged.
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However, in a further study of over 4,000 patients at St Thomas’ Hospital, scientists at King’s (part-funded by the British Heart Foundation) found that 47% fell into the intermediate risk group, requiring an extended period of observation and further blood tests. Indeed, this is not without risk – patients in this group are frequently treated with blood-thinning medication that increases the risk of spontaneous bleeding. The team found that patients are frequently admitted overnight which poses a medical, psychological and social burden and becomes a stressful, often unnecessary experience for the patient.
Using donated human heart muscle tissue, the teamf found that between 3-9 milligram / 0.001% of the entire human heart had to undergo cell death to be detectable in the blood stream. However, their new blood test showed that cardiac myosin-binding protein C was found to be even more sensitive, detecting 0.07 mg / 0.00002% of damaged heart muscle.