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Heart Disease Health Center

New Test Predicts Heart Attacks

Experimental Blood Test Rules Out Other Causes of Chest Pain
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Oct. 23, 2003 -- A new blood test may allow emergency room doctors to quickly determine whether a person with chest pain is soon to have a heart attack.

Researchers say if further studies confirm these findings, the test may provide a new way to predict heart attacks months ahead of time and allow doctors to intervene with potentially lifesaving treatments.

Currently available tests usually don't detect heart attacks until after they have occurred. For example, troponin blood tests measure levels of a protein found in the blood that indicate heart tissue damage (such as from a heart attack) after it happens.

But the experimental new test measures levels of an enzyme called myeloperoxidase that is higher in people with heart disease. In addition, the enzyme is found in clogged areas of heart arteries that are vulnerable to rupture -- thus causing a heart attack.

Test Predicts Heart Attack

The new blood test accurately predicted who was likely to suffer a heart attack as well as the risk of other major heart problems in the one to six months following an emergency room visit for chest pain. The study on 604 people appears in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

The test also rules out other causes of chest pain, such as severe heartburn.

Unlike other currently used tests, researchers found that the new heart attack blood test identified people at risk for heart problems even though they had no evidence of heart tissue damage.

The study also showed that the levels of myeloperoxidase rose much more quickly than traditional heart attack blood tests such as troponin -- giving doctors a sign that the risk of heart attack is high.

This blood test could help doctors pinpoint patients who need immediate treatment for heart disease to help prevent an impending heart attack.

The results suggest that measuring myeloperoxidase in patients complaining with chest pain may identify those at increased risk of heart attack who might not otherwise be identified without surgery, write researcher Marie-Louise Brennan, PhD, of The Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues.

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