Scientists have discovered a simple blood test which could prevent thousands of deaths from heart attacks.
The blood test checks for the levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) – which is a sign of inflammation – in people who have had a heart attack.
Details from this blood tests are then used to identify those who are at the lowest and highest risk of death within the next three years.
Those found to be of high risk could be monitored more closely by medical professionals or given more aggressive treatment.
While people seen to be of low risk could be given reassurances and sent home.
Currently, patients who are believed to have suffered from a heart attack receive a blood test for troponin, a protein that is released into the blood stream when the heart is damaged.
This new method of measuring CRP levels could provide experts with a more detailed assessment of the patient’s risk of death.
Treatments for those at the highest risk could include some anti-inflammatory drugs such as colchicine, which is found to be effective against atherosclerosis – the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries that increases your chance of a heart attack.
The findings were made by researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, in collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Informatics Collaborative (HIC).
Experts from the NIHR HIC gathered data from more than 250,000 patients who were admitted to hospital with a suspected heart attack.
The study found that patients with raised CRP levels and a positive troponin tests had a 35 per cent chance of death within three years.
Dr Ramzi Khamis, consultant cardiologist at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, now hopes to test colchicine specifically in high risk patients.
These tests will determine whether the drug could be an effective treatment to increase the survival after a heart attack.
He said: “Testing for this biological ‘red flag’ at the same time as other hospital tests identified those more vulnerable patients who should be receiving closer medical attention.
“Importantly, we hope with more research, we can be successful in developing new therapies that specifically combat inflammation to improve outcomes in heart disease.”
Dr Amit Kaura, lead researcher for the NIHR HIC at Imperial College London added: “This study shows that analysing large sets of real-world clinical data can cast light on patterns of disease and identify those at high risk of dying.
“We hope to use this knowledge to guide our clinical decision making in treating patients with suspected heart attacks.”
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