Research

A New Heart Attack Blood Test to Reduce ER Wait Times

UT Southwestern research may help patients get treatment in overcrowded emergency departments.

A study from UT Southwestern Medical Center uses a highly sensitive blood test to determine if a patient is having a hear attack, which is particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic, where increased time spent in ER waiting rooms has an added risk of contracting the highly contagious virus.

Last week, information released by MedStar showed that emergency responders are finding more patients in cardiac arrest than usual, despite overall calls being down. In addition, the data revealed that responders are arriving too late more often than in past years, meaning people might be avoiding visiting the hospital out of fear of contracting the virus. This new protocol could help avoid risky time spent in ER waiting rooms.

“Patients are more reluctant to come to the ER with heart-related symptoms during the COVID-19 outbreak. We do not want those with medical emergencies to avoid the hospital due to concern for risk from the virus,” says cardiologist Dr. Rebecca Vigen, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, via release.

The test quickly actually identifies who is not having a heart attack by detecting troponins, which are released when the heart muscle has been damaged. Administered at Parkland Hospital in 2017 and Clements in 2018, the study  analyzed over 31,000 patients. The Centers for Disease Control says chest pain is the most common reason for patients to visit the ER, at seven million each year.

“Our innovative strategy allowed us to ‘rule out’ heart attacks within one hour in more than half of the patients who were tested. This process is safe and improves the efficiency of evaluating patients with possible heart attacks,” says James de Lemos, M.D., professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and co-author of the study via release.

The study was published in JAMA Open last month.

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