New test could detect milder and earlier degrees of heart injuries
A new test, developed at the University of Leeds, searches for a heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) which is released into the circulation following heart injury. The test seems to be more accurate in identifying patients with heart damage at an earlier course of their illness.
Alistair Hall, Professor of Clinical Cardiology at Leeds, explained the need for a more accurate test: “Casualty departments regularly see patients presenting with chest pains. The highest-risk patients are easy to diagnose and are admitted straight away. Those with no risk of having a heart attack are also easy to spot. It´s the group in between which is hardest to correctly diagnose. Typically patients are admitted for 24 hours while the hospital figures out the cause.”
At the moment, the most common diagnostic tool is the troponin test which can detect and evaluate heart injury and separate it from chest pain due to other causes. Essentially if troponin proteins are found in the patient´s blood, then it indicates a heart problem. But this troponin test can give both false negative and false positive results, meaning some patients are unnecessarily admitted, and others wrongly discharged.
Prof. Hall: “The H-FABP test is a major advance on what we had before. It appears to be able to detect milder and earlier degrees of heart injury than do current tests which detect heart cell death.” The test also enables medics to identify patients whose chest pains are an indication that they are susceptible to heart attack in the weeks and months ahead. “If you can pick these problems up in advance you could have a three-month head start in putting prevention in place”, he added.
The study was conducted in UK in the context of a national health care system that forces hard decisions to be made regard the best use of limited resources. This blood test, which will cost about £ 10, could be used by ambulance crews to test people on the way to hospitals. The ambulance then can make a more precise decision whether a patient need to be admitted or not.
Prof. Hall concludes: “ We are excited about these findings as we believe that they will help us to provide very real benefits for patients and those who care for them.”