Heart attacks, also called myocardial infarction (or MI), are a leading cause of death in the United States. A simple blood test to test for cardiac enzymes can quickly (within 1 hour) and effectively establish whether emergency treatment for MI is necessary, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported on 1300 patients treated in an emergency department for chest pain. High-sensitivity cardiac troponin testing was done at baseline and 1 hour later. The baseline level plus the 1-hour change were used to rule out MI, rule in MI, or assign the patient to an observational group.

The test protocol ruled out MI about 60% of the time, ruled in MI about 16% of the time, and allocated the rest to the observational group. According to the researchers, the test protocol “substantially accelerated the management of suspected acute MI by allowing safe rule-out as well as accurate rule-in of acute MI in 3 out of 4 patients.”

Testing for cardiac enzymes has long been part of the standard workup for heart attacks, along with EKG and chest x-ray. The usual cardiac enzyme evaluation occurs at 1-hour and 3-hour intervals. The new protocol shortens that time-frame considerably and places greater reliance on those lab results.

Under Ohio law, a medical malpractice (or medical negligence) claim exists when a physician fails to comply with accepted standards of medical care and thereby causes injury to a patient. In the setting of MI, substandard care may exist when a physician fails to perform an adequate workup to rule MI in or out. It can also occur when that workup is delayed or test results are not promptly acted upon. Injury occurs from delayed diagnosis or delayed treatment when the treatment options for opening a blocked artery in the heart are not used before the patient dies.

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