Heart Attack Test 'May Save Lives'

21 January 2015, 07:13 | Updated: 21 January 2015, 07:34

Many more women's lives could be saved by a new highly sensitive test to detect heart attacks, a leading doctor has said.

A large clinical trial on the effectiveness of the test is currently under way in Scotland which it is hoped will confirm earlier research showing heart attacks could be diagnosed in twice as many women using the sensitive troponin test.

The test is thought to be able to detect lower levels of troponin, a protein that leaks into the blood from heart muscle cells after they have been damaged by a heart attack, than the one currently used by the NHS.

Doctors measure troponin to see if a heart attack is the reason why somebody is suffering chest pains.

It is thought the new test is particularly effective in picking up cases in women, because they appear to have lower troponin levels than men.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which is funding the research at the University of Edinburgh, said the results could prove significant.

"If these results are confirmed in the much larger clinical trial we're funding, these results suggest that using a high sensitivity troponin test, with a threshold specific to each gender, could save many more women's lives by identifying them earlier to take steps to prevent them dying or having another, bigger heart attack,'' he said.

Research involving 1,126 patients showed promising results when it was published two years ago.

University of Edinburgh clinical research fellow Dr Anoop Shah said: "For some reason, women are less likely to have obvious symptoms and if the test result comes back negative then they might be sent home only to have an event [heart attack] in the next few months because they were not treated appropriately.''

Edinburgh woman Jenni Stevens said she is grateful that her heart attack, which she had thought was just chest pain, was detected using the sensitive test.