Nov 5, 2009 11:10 AM by Dawn Timmeney

New test to detect heart attack

Stephen Harvey was far from feeling fine back in August. The 54 year old from southwest Philadelphia wound up in the ER after suffering severe chest pains.

"That was the farthest thing from my mind, having a heart attack," Harvey said. "I just thought it was gas or a muscle spasm or something."

It was something. It was a heart attack!

And Harvey had to have surgery to repair a severe blockage. But how do doctors know if you're really having a heart attack?

One way is a blood test that detects levels of a heart muscle protein called troponin.

"When the heart has damage, this protein leaks into the blood stream," said Dr. Stanley Berger, a cardiologist. "Normally there should be no protein like this, no troponin in the blood, because it should be in the heart."

Dr. Berger says while the current blood test to determine a heart attack is good, it often needs to be repeated because the test doesn't always come up positive.

New blood tests studied in Europe are more sensitive and could detect heart attacks much sooner. After chest pains start!

"That could be very powerful and allow us to start treatment more quickly, get patients moved if they need to be moved more quickly, the medications that save heart muscle can be started more rapidly," said Dr. Berger.

Dr. Berger says the new blood test could have helped in Stephen Harvey's case.

He says if it's as reliable as it appears in the studies, the test could also rule out who is not having a heart attack faster. "Put people at ease because when you're coming in with symptoms like that it is very scary."

Stephen Harvey can attest to that. He says his heart attack was a wake-up call.

"Changing my diet, changing my habits, it turned me around quite a bit," said Harvey.



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