Extra blood test could help spot heart-attack death riskon February 22, 2022 at 9:56 pm

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Testing suspected heart attack patients for the C-reactive protein could save lives, experts say.

Blood test doctor

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An extra blood test on suspected heart-attack patients could determine if they are at high risk of dying in the next three years, researchers say.

The test, for the C-reactive protein (CRP), helps detect inflammation and is already used in hospitals to diagnose other conditions.

It could help doctors decide which patients might need more aggressive treatment and closer monitoring.

And this, the National Heart and Lung Institute says, could help save lives.

Doctors currently test for the troponin protein, released into the blood stream when the heart is damaged, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the research, published in PLoS Medicine journal.

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But scientists at the National Heart and Lung Institute and the National Institute for Health Research Health Informatics Collaborative found CRP tests provided a more detailed picture.

They used data from more than 250,000 patients admitted to hospital with a suspected heart attack.

And researchers now hope to test the anti-inflammatory drug colchicine – found to be effective against atherosclerosis, a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries that increases the chance of a heart attack – on patients with high CRP levels.

Cardiologist Dr Ramzi Khamis, who led the research, told BBC News: “The CRP test is not in the guidelines for a suspected heart attack yet – and therefore is not routinely ordered when a patient presents with a suspected heart attack.

“It may get proposed for consideration to be included in future [European] Society [of Cardiologists] or NICE [National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidelines, which would take all the data into account before issuing a recommendation for its routine use.”

Prof James Leiper, from the BHF, calls the test a “valuable new tool”.

“Every five minutes, someone is admitted to a UK hospital with a heart attack,” he said, “and it is estimated that there are 1.4 million people in the UK who have survived a heart attack.

“By better identifying which people are most at risk, this simple blood test could help to direct anti-inflammatory treatments to those who most need it.”

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Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • chest pain – a sensation of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest
  • pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling sick or being sick
  • an overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • coughing or wheezing
  • Although the chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion. While the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain, women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain
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