New test could help diagnose heart attacks

26 Oct 2017 | Comment

Cardiovascular disease is the second biggest cause of deaths in the UK, which includes heart attacks.

According to the NHS, symptoms of a heart attack can include: chest pain, pain in other parts of the body (such as into the arms, neck, jaw, back and abdomen), shortness of breath, sweating, weakness, dizziness and/or lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, and an overwhelming feeling of anxiety.

Each year there are 188,000 hospital visits due to heart attacks in the UK, according to figures published by the British Heart Foundation.  However, the number of patients who present to hospital with symptoms suggestive of a heart attack is much higher, although it is estimated that two-thirds of patients who attend A&E with chest pain have not had a heart attack.

Currently, a diagnosis of a heart attack is made based upon an ECG (electrocardiogram) which monitors the electric activity of the heart, and a blood test to measure a patient’s troponin levels – troponin is a protein released when heart muscle has been damage, such as when a heart attack occurs.  The blood test to measure troponin levels requires an initial blood test on arrival at hospital, followed by a second blood test around 3 hours later.  Up to 85% of patients will need to remain in hospital for further tests to rule out a heart attack.

Researchers, including a team based at King’s College London, have developed a new test, called cMyC, which measures levels of a protein called cardiac myosin-binding protein C in the blood.  The levels of cMyC rise more rapidly and higher after a heart attack than troponin levels, and the new test could not only result in a quicker diagnosis and treatment of a heart attack, but it could also quickly rule out a heart attack in many more patients than troponin tests.

It is hoped that this new test would result in more patients being cleared of having heart attacks and being discharged home, thus freeing up hospital beds and saving the NHS money.

Further research is ongoing, but it is hoped that the new test could be introduced in hospitals within the next 5 years.

Sadly, we are often approached by patients who have experienced delays in receiving a diagnosis and treatment for heart attacks, which can result in long-term problems or death.

If you or a family member has suffered as a result of any of the issues noted above, we have a dedicated and approachable team who can assist.

The Medical Negligence department at Hugh James is ranked in the top tier for their expert clinical negligence advice by both major legal guides – Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners. For more information, visit our Medical Negligence page or get in touch to find out if you are eligible to claim.

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