According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, 225 South Africans are killed by heart diseases every day, 45% of adults have high blood pressure and 10 people suffer a stroke every hour.
With these alarming statistics, it comes as good news that a new method of diagnosing heart attack patients in the emergency department is more accurate and faster than current methods.
The laboratory score can also identify patients at risk of more heart problems after they leave the hospital, according to the study in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
"This lab score may reduce both the number of blood tests and time spent in the emergency department for chest pain patients," Andrew Worster, from McMaster University in Ontario, said in a journal news release.
Currently, diagnosis of a heart attack requires multiple blood tests over several hours. Previous studies using cardiac troponin levels alone to diagnose heart attacks have yielded mixed results on safety.
In this study, an international team of researchers combined common laboratory blood tests available at many hospitals to create a single laboratory score (clinical chemistry score) to diagnose heart attack.
The lab score was tested on over 4 200 patients in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, and proved highly effective in both men and women.
The researchers used the score as a predictor of heart attack or death within 30 days. In that time frame, 727 heart attacks or deaths occurred. The lab score missed only one of these events compared with up to 25 missed heart attacks/death predicted by the cardiac troponin test, which is a type of protein in the blood whose levels signal damage after a cardiac event.
Dr Peter Kavsak, also of McMaster University, said, "We have developed a simple lab score that is superior to using cardiac troponin alone for the identification of patients at low and high risk for heart attack or death at emergency department presentation."