March 23, 2015 9:57 pm
Updated: March 23, 2015 10:04 pm

New heart attack test could ease pressure on congested emergency departments


Three years ago, Juan Garcia suffered a serious heart attack, so he did not take any chances when he started experiencing chest pains again a few weeks ago.

“Just to be on the safe side I decided to come into emergency and get checked,” said the 45-year-old Calgary engineer.

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Garcia waited 11 hours in the emergency department before doctors were finally able to rule out a heart attack.

Dr. James Andruchow, an emergency medicine specialist at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre said only about 15 per cent of patients who come to hospital with chest pains are experiencing a heart attack.

The symptoms are more often related to heartburn, an upper respiratory infection or muscular strain.

“The only way to confirm a patient has not had a heart attack is through a blood test called a troponin assay,” explained Adruchow. 

“The current process requires repeat blood tests and can take between six and 12 hours to complete.”

Andruchow is currently leading a study examining the reliability of new test that could shorten the time it takes to rule out a heart attack. 

Early results show the test can accurately diagnose patients within two hours.

“By being able to give patients their answer within one or two hours, we can potentially reduce anxiety for patients, reduce wasted time for them as well as improve efficiency within the emergency department,” said Andruchow. 

“We’re looking at saving thousands of patient bed hours a year.”

Researchers hope to enrol 750 Calgary patients in the study by the end of this year. 

Roche diagnostics in partnership with Alberta Health Services and Calgary Laboratory Services sponsor the research.

This article is not written or edited by Global News. The author is solely responsible for the content. © Heather Yourex-West, 2015

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