Revolutionary blood test could cut A&E waiting times from hours to just minutes
A staggering two-thirds of patients who visit A&E with chest pain have not had a heart attack. Yet, all patients who report chest pain must currently receive two tests; an EEG on arrival and a blood test.
This blood test is designed to measure a certain protein, troponin, which the patient is given when they arrive, and again after three hours. This means hours of waiting around – which is difficult for both the patient as well as the hospital staff.
To solve this issue, Kings College London with support from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have developed a revolutionary new blood test that can speed up diagnosis and let patients leave hospital much quicker, potentially within minutes.
“Our research shows the new test has the potential to reassure many thousands more patients with a single test, improving their experience and freeing up valuable hospital beds in A&E departments and wards across the country,” said lead researcher, KCL’s Dr Tom Kaier.
The test is described in a new paper, published today in the journal Circulation. It uses similar technology to the troponin blood test but analyses a different protein, called cardiac myosin-binding protein C. Levels of this protein increase faster than troponin after a blood test, and to a greater extent. This means a heart attack can be ruled out much more quickly.
“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,” explained Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the BHF.
“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.”
The researchers tested the results on patients and found, compared to the troponin test, the new test doubled the proportion of patients ruled out as having a heart attack. But further analysis is still needed.
“This research is the first of its kind for cMyC. We’ve shown that this test is not only just as good as the current test for working out who has had a heart attack, but it’s also much better at working out who hasn’t,” said Professor Mike Marber, professor of cardiology at Kings College London.
“We would love to see this new test rolled out in hospitals in the next five years.”
An average of 530 people go to hospital every day because of suspected heart attacks in the UK.