How Blood Tests Can Save People From Heart Attacks
Now it is possible to diagnose heart attacks within a period of one hour with high sensitivity troponin assays

Troponin blood test can quickly and accurately diagnose a heart attack or imminent heart attack. Read to know more about this blood test.

India is seeing an exponential rise in heart attack cases and sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs), particularly among younger people. As estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the country contributes about one-fifth of cardiovascular disease-related deaths worldwide. The one thing that most of us now want to know about this silent killer is: Is it possible to detect an imminent health attack?

Doctors use various blood tests to assess our heart health. If a doctor suspects someone has had a heart attack, it is likely that they will use troponin blood test to confirm the diagnosis. This blood test provides a quick and accurate diagnosis of a heart attack or imminent heart attack.

In this article, Dr. M S Aditya, Sr. Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad, tells us more about the troponin blood test and other tests used for diagnosis of heart attacks.

What is a heart attack and what leads to it?

The word heart attack denotes an imminent danger to the heart and its function. In technical terms, it is termed as myocardial infraction. The most common cause of myocardial infarction is blockage of an important coronary vessel that supplies blood to heart muscle. The destruction of muscle tissue leads to release of cardiac enzymes into circulating blood. These cardiac enzymes are usually at very low levels in circulating blood. When these levels increase rapidly and reach high levels, heart attack or imminent heart attack is diagnosed. The enzymes that are employed are Troponin, CPK -MB and Myoglobin.

In clinical practice, Troponins are used most often due to their high reliability, in general troponin T and Troponin I assays are available. To make a diagnosis of heart attack, serial troponin assessments are done to make sure that diagnosis is accurate. In the early stages of heart attack, the levels may be very low or undetectable. So, it is necessary to confirm by serial measurements at 3 to 6 hourly intervals. With no incremental rise in troponin levels, it is safe to discharge a patient. However, if the levels are high and rising, urgent action is required.

How long does it take to diagnose a heart attack through blood tests?

With increasing diagnostic accuracy, very low levels of troponin are detected with modern equipment. Now it is possible to diagnose heart attacks within a period of one hour with high sensitivity troponin assays. However, there may be other reasons for troponin rise and the results have to be interpreted by qualified medical professionals.

What is the future of heart attack diagnosis?

In the future, transdermal detection devices for troponin may become available which will avoid the need to sample blood repeatedly. Machine learning and artificial intelligence might help in monitoring patients for imminent heart attacks.

How can we save more people from heart attacks?

When combined with ECG and other diagnostic tools like echocardiography, CT angiogram and stress studies, the incremental accuracy of troponin measurements is quite high.

The cost and availability of these assays was once an issue, now increasing use has brought down logistic problems. The turnaround time has decreased considerably in the past few years for these tests. There is a need for increasing awareness about these blood tests so that more people can be saved from heart attacks.

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