About 50,000 men and 32,000 women have heart attack in England per year, according to the British Heart Foundation, and a third of these patients are likely to die. The number of heart attack related deaths, however, is anticipated to decline with a new heart attack tests that will be made available on the NHS soon.
The new tests, which will cost somewhere between £5 to £20, detect if there is an increase in the level of a protein that is released when the heart muscle is damaged, an indication of a minor heart attack.
Individuals who go through mild heart attacks have elevated risks of suffering a second heart attack that can be worse and life threatening following the first attack and this necessitates treatment and precautions to reduce risks of death. Patients diagnosed with mild heart attack, for instance, may be given blood thinning drugs or undergo stent surgery to widen their blocked arteries.
Unfortunately, thousands of patients who had a heart attack are misdiagnosed with back pain or indigestion each year because current tests do not detect that they had a heart attack. Women, in particular, tend to be misdiagnosed more often than men because their symptoms which include nausea, abdominal pain and back ache can be misleading and doctors assume they have lesser risks than men.
The tests, Roche's Elecsys Troponin T high-sensitive and Abbot's Architect Stat High Sensitive Troponin-I, however, are more sensitive than existing tests such as ECG heart scans and can detect more of the so called silent heart attacks. A trial involving more than 1,000 patients in September shows that the new blood tests can detect twice as many heart attacks as current procedures do.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), which approved the tests, has recommended their routine use in NHS hospitals and has further advised doctors to use the tests twice for accurate results. Diagnosis using the new tests will be available in as little as four hours.
"The advantage of this new test is that it can very, very small concentrations of this heart muscle protein and that allows you to make the diagnosis of a heart much quicker," said Nicholas Mills, a cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh, who helped developed Abbot's Architect Stat High Sensitive Troponin-I.
Women are likely to benefit from the new tests because as many as half of heart attack cases in women are missed.