The Archives of Internal Medicine reports that a simple blood test can accurately rule in or rule out heart attacks in three-quarters of patients with acute chest pain. The test looks for a byproduct of heart attacks, called troponin, that appears in the patient’s blood. This test is a promising new addition to the various studies that physicians can use to timely diagnose and treat a heart attack (also called a myocardial infarction or MI).
When blood vessels in the heart become clogged through artherosclerosis, thereby depriving cardiac muscle of necessary blood flow, a heart attack ensues. According to the American Heart Association, the signs and symptoms of heart attack can vary but may include some of the following: chest discomfort, shortness of breath, back pain or discomfort in other parts of the upper body, cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Diagnosis of heart attack in complicated by the fact that the symptoms can vary or be subtle. No one symptom must be present to suspect heart attack. Further complicating matters is the fact heart attacks can mimic other medical conditions, like flu, muscle strains, GERD, infection and pulmonary embolism. Because a heart attack is potentially life-threatening, physicians are trained to work patients up for heart attack quickly. A delay in diagnosis can be fatal.
When a heart attack is a possibility, physicians must quickly evaluate the patient to rule in or rule out the condition so that treatment can be undertaken. Early treatment must be done to avoid death and prevent or minimize damage to the heart muscle. Damage to the heart muscle is irreparable and carries permanent consequences. Treatment may consist of angioplasty, bypass surgery, clot busting medications, anticoagulants and/or cardiac medications.
To zero in on the diagnosis, physicians typically perform a chest x-ray, an electrocardiogram (also called an ECG or EKG) and test for cardiac enzymes. The Archives of Internal Medicine article proves that a specialized test for certain of these cardiac enzymes, called troponins, is particularly useful in narrowing the diagnosis. This information will be useful in medical negligence claims in Ohio that arise when caregivers fail to thoroughly evaluate symptomatic patients.