Rapid Blood Test Helps Diagnose Heart Attacks Faster Than Ever Before

Doctors can now use a newly-approved rapid blood test to determine whether you're having a heart attack.

It's meant to rule out heart attack faster than ever before and Parkland Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the nation to use the test as standard protocol.

Testing blood for cardiac troponin, a protein released from the heart muscle into the blood stream when the heart is damaged,  is one of the tools physicians use to help diagnose a heart attack and to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

A newly approved high sensitivity version of the test is helping to speed diagnosis of heart attack to within an hour of when a patient arrives at the hospital with chest pain or other heart attack symptoms. 

The traditional test required three to six hours to effectively allow doctors to diagnose a heart attack.

"In our study, we found that over half of all patients were able to rule out for a heart attack after their zero or one hour blood draw, as compared to three to six hours using the traditional tests," said Dr. Rebecca Vigen, Parkland Cardiologist, and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"As a physician, I think it’s great to be able to reassure many patients, even after their first lab draw, that their symptoms are not due to a heart attack and that can help us figure out what they are due to."

Signs and symptoms of heart attack can be the same as those for many other benign conditions, including indigestion, muscle strain or even anxiety, making accurate diagnosis tricky, physicians say. 

In addition to the troponin blood test, doctors may order EKGs, stress tests and other procedures to help make a diagnosis.

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