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New test may help rapidly diagnose heart attack patients

An estimated 10% of all visits to emergency departments in Oregon and nationwide may involve patients whose symptoms suggest acute myocardial infarction, commonly referred to as heart attack. However, that diagnosis often requires several hours of observation, and may be compounded by additional delays caused by overcrowding in EDs. A new test may offer a solution.

Under the traditional method for diagnosing a heart attack, a doctor performs a clinical assessment, electrocardiography, and measurement of a biochemical marker called cardiac troponin. Measuring increases in levels of that marker, however, may take upwards of 3 hours.

A new test promises faster results. The test relies on an algorithm to rapidly screen for the biochemical marker. According to researchers, it may reduce that wait time to 1 hour, thereby removing the need for prolonged monitoring in 75% of suspected heart attack patients.

That's good news for ED patients and doctors alike. Quicker screening may help patients move more quickly through the ED. That, in turn, may reduce congestion and medical costs.

The test also may help reduce the possibility of medical errors caused by emergency room doctors and staff negligently failing to promptly and properly interpret the warning signs of heart disease. Without the test, there may be room for error in interpreting symptoms of headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness in an arm or leg, chest discomfort, radiating pain to the arm or jaw, and/or abnormal vital signs.

Doctors and hospital staff have a duty to respond appropriately to patients exhibiting symptoms of heart attack. If you believe the care you received did not meet that standard, an attorney can advise you whether you might be able to bring a claim for negligence.

Source: Medical News Today, "Heart Attack Test Gives Diagnosis in 1 Hour," Catharine Paddock Ph.D., August 16, 2012.

• Our firm handles situations similar to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Oregon ER Failure to Diagnose Stroke or Heart Disease page.

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