Study investigates the effective diagnosis of heart attacks in patients attending Emergency Departments

Chest pain, which could suggest a heart attack, is the most common cause of emergency hospital admissions in the UK, accounting for six per cent of all attendances to the Emergency Department.  If the signs of heart attacks are missed the consequences for patients could be fatal, resulting in pressure for medical practitioners to make an accurate diagnosis.

However, fewer than 35 per cent of patients with chest pain are diagnosed with a heart attack, which means that a significant number of patients – almost two-thirds – may not need to be admitted to hospital.

High sensitivity troponin is a test which is currently used in hospitals and that quickly shows which patients need to be admitted for emergency treatment, and which can go home and have further investigation as an outpatient.

The South West Academic Health Science Network is working on a PenCLAHRC project, supporting the PenCHORD research team to conduct a study focusing on how high sensitivity troponin is used in emergency departments.  The team is looking at how this test is currently being used in hospitals across the South West with the hope of establishing a consistent approach across all Emergency Departments.

A systematic review of the diagnostic accuracy of high sensitivity troponin has been carried out. This showed that the test is effective at predicting heart attack and its use as a single procedure when a patient arrives at the Emergency Department may rule out heart attack. In addition, the need for emergency admissions, further tests or treatment is reduced.

Stuart Walker, Consultant Cardiologist at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, said:
“This test means we can get an accurate, and rapid, diagnosis for patients who come to the Emergency Department with a suspected heart attack.

“It is really important because, through this trial, the NHS across England will be able to establish the very best way of using the high sensitivity troponin test, to get the best outcomes for our patients.”
Accurate diagnosis will result in fewer patients being unnecessarily admitted, reduce waits in the Emergency Department, and reduce unnecessary diagnostic procedures.

Not only will this have a significant impact on patients, because fewer will be subjected to the worry of unnecessary tests in hospital, but it will also reduce costs.”

The study is being carried out in the following South West hospitals:
• Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust
• Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust
• Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust
• Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust
• South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
• Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust
• Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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