New blood test could help identify more heart attacks in women

Although not common, here at Forster Dean Solicitors we do have cases relating to misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks. The timing of diagnosis and treatment of patients who may have suffered or be suffering from a heart attack is of the essence, as a delay could mean the difference between life and death.

Historically, statistics have shown that a heart attack is more likely in men that women. However, recent research has revealed a possible ‘underdiagnosis’ of heart attacks in women. One of the reasons for this could be because women who are suffering a heart attack, particularly younger women, do not always display the traditional and well known signs. Women may not always suffer from chest pain, an acknowledged common symptom of heart attack.

Another possible reason may be, as recent research has suggested, because a blood test performed to help diagnose a heart attack is not always sensitive enough to pick up signs of damage to the heart muscle in women. In addition to doctors performing an ECG (electrocardiogram), physical examination and possible imaging, the standard blood test for assessing whether a patient has suffered a heart attack is called a troponin test.

What is a Troponin Test?

When someone has a heart attack the normal flow of blood and oxygen to the heart is stopped. Without oxygen the heart muscles cells start to die and release a protein called troponin into the bloodstream. When blood is taken from a patient who may have suffered a heart attack a troponin test will detect an abnormal rise in the levels of troponin, indicating possible damage to the heart.

Recent Studies

It has been suggested following recent research that the standard troponin test for detecting a rise in troponin levels is not sensitive enough to pick up changes in women’s troponin levels.

Research from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, funded by The British Heart Foundation shows the standard test misses many cases of heart attack in women.

“Our findings suggest one reason for this difference in diagnosis rates of men and women is that we, as doctors, may have been using a threshold for troponin testing that is too high in women”, says Researcher Dr Anoop Shah

He said doctors can rely heavily on blood tests and that faced with a normal result there is the temptation to rule out a heart attack too quickly. Without displaying the classic chest pain symptoms of a heart attack, researchers say some women may not be getting the right kind of treatment that could save them from a further potentially fatal attack.

Here at Forster Dean we conduct significant medical research on each and every case. Where we act for clients who have suffered a heart attack that could or should have been diagnosed more quickly we always examine our client’s medical records meticulously. We check that doctors have taken a proper medical and lifestyle history, have performed a physical examination, have correctly performed and interpreted the electrocardiogram (it should be noted that you can have a normal ECG and still have suffered a heart attack; further investigations should be carried out before a firm diagnosis is made) and that they have performed the troponin test at the appropriate time and repeated if necessary. We also ensure that appropriate treatment was timely and in accordance with accepted standards of practice.

Disclaimer: this article is not to be taken as medical advice. If you believe you may be suffering from any chest pain or having a cardiac event always call 999.