A diagnostic test developed by Roche Holding ($RHHBY) to confirm a heart attack drastically reduced emergency room diagnostic time, according to a new study. Bloomberg published a great summary of the major findings, which could help bring the technology into wider use as a tool to improve patients' prospects and reduce emergency room overcrowding.
Roche, a study sponsor, donated the assay used in the research, which is detailed in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Competitors Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) and Siemens ($SI) also helped co-sponsor the research, which took place in Switzerland and included the Swiss Heart Foundation and the Swiss National Science Foundation as additional supporters.
The test detects changes in cardiac troponin (an indicator of heart attack), but used more sensitive screening technology, after which the data is inputted into an algorithm (this test isn't available yet in the U.S.). Doctors in the study could determine whether or not a patient had a heart attack an hour after arriving at the hospital in 77% of 872 patients studied in the trial. According to Bloomberg, researchers diagnosed heart attack in 17% of the patients. The algorithm enabled them to rule out heart attacks for 259 people, confirm them in 76 patients and observe 101 with questionable symptoms, all within an hour of coming to the emergency room.
Dr. Kristin Newby, professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center and author of an editorial that accompanied the study, told Bloomberg that the trial represents "a big step forward in understanding how to employ [the diagnostic tests] in what can be a very confusing environment, to tease out heart attacks from many other things."
The hospital emergency room represents a big market for tests that can diagnose heart attacks. As noted by Bloomberg, the researchers determined that 10% of all emergency room visits involve patients who have heart attack symptoms. And existing tests that read troponin levels can take 6 hours or longer to confirm or reject a heart attack diagnoses. Results from this study are likely to draw lots of provider attention, because those potential heart attack patients waiting for definitive diagnoses make the emergency room more crowded than it needs to be.
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