Thousands of women's lives could be saved by blood test

Thousands of women's lives could be saved by blood test

Trials found that a new test could identify twice as many female patients, ensuring that the right treatment is provided quickly. Scientists say that although women and men are equally likely to suffer heart attacks, men are far more likely to be correctly diagnosed, and put on clot-busting drugs or treatment to unblock the arteries and reduce the risk of death or further attacks.

A study by the University of Edinburgh, funded by the British Heart Foundation, found the new test to be far more sensitive to cases in women, where symptoms can be less obvious. Coronary heart disease is one of the biggest killers of women in the UK - killing around three times more women than breast cancer.

At present, there are around 900,000 women in the UK living with coronary heart disease, around half of whom have suffered a heart attack. More than 30,500 women die from the disease each year.

Doctors currently measure levels of troponin, a protein that leaks into the blood from heart muscle cells after a heart attack, to identify cases.

The new test measures the same substance, but is far more sensitive, meaning it can pick up cases in women, who have far lower troponin levels than men.

Until now, scientists had assumed that levels of the protein which indicate disease are the same in men and women. Experts believe the new test - called the high sensitive troponin-I (hsTnI) test - could lead to far more women being diagnosed with a heart attack, potentially saving lives.

Dr Nicholas Mills, one of the study authors and a cardiologist from the University of Edinburgh, presented the findings at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) conference in Amsterdam.

“Whilst men and women are just as likely to present to the emergency department with chest pain, currently men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack,” he said.

He said using the test meant “the frequency of diagnosis of heart attacks in women increased and was comparable to men.

“The findings of our study, when completed, could change the way we diagnose heart attacks in women, potentially reducing inequalities in the treatment and outcomes, and enabling everyone to receive the best care.”

The research, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), involved 1,126 patients attending hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. A larger study will be completed in 2016 involving more than 25,000 patients across 10 centres in Scotland.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said: “It is well recognised that having a mild heart attack puts you at greater risk of having a more serious one in the future if it’s not identified and treated.We also know that women with heart disease are less easily identified than men.

“This research has shown that the normal range for a blood test - that detects small amounts of heart damage - is different in men and women.

“When results are adjusted for this difference, many more women are identified with underlying heart disease than with the conventional test.

“If confirmed in larger studies, these results suggest that the test could save more women’s lives by identifying those at risk of a major heart attack.”

The test is manufactured by Abbott Diagnostics.

Dr John Frels, divisional vice president of diagnostics research at Abbott, said: “While Abbott’s high sensitive troponin test benefits both men and women with earlier detection of heart attacks, the potential to increase the diagnosis among women is especially important.

“This is the first time we have seen a test that can provide this kind of detailed information to doctors and has the potential to aid doctors with improving the odds of survival for women with heart attacks.”

By Laura Donnelly and agencies


The Telegraph, 4th September 2013




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