Sweden: High-sensitivity assay gives more reassurance to chest pain patients

Patients in Sweden’s emergency clinics complaining of chest pain are evaluated using the recently introduced high-sensitivity troponin T assay

In a large-scale registry study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, scientists at Karolinska Institutet show this more sensitive analytical method has improved evaluation for patients. Since its introduction, fewer patients diagnosed with unspecified chest pain suffer a heart attack or die after being sent home.

Chest pain is one of the most common reasons for emergency medical care. Sometimes the pain can be related to a heart attack, but most of the time the cause of the problem cannot be identified and most patients are sent home with an “unspecified chest pain” diagnosis.

However, a few of these people will suffer a heart attack, others will have to undergo unplanned revascularisation surgery, and still others will die within 30 days. The difficulty lies in identifying these patients when they go to an emergency unit complaining of chest pain.

To assess if the high-sensitivity troponin T diagnostic is associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular events, the researchers conducted a study of 65,000 patients with unspecified chest pain who had been discharged from 16 Swedish emergency clinics between 2006 and 2013.

They found the risk of suffering a serious cardiovascular event within 30 days of returning home was much lower in patients discharged from an emergency clinic when the new method was in use, than in those examined with the old one. The percentage of those subsequently suffering a heart attack, dying or undergoing unplanned revascularisation dropped from 0.9 to 0.6 per cent.

“Our results are of interest to other countries such as the US, which is about to change its methods,” says Per Svensson, associate professor and senior lecturer at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine in Solna.

However, amongst the patients who were admitted for an unspecified chest pain diagnosis, the risk of suffering serious events following discharge increased after the change in method. In this group, 7.2 per cent of patients with the new method in use were affected, compared with 3.4 per cent who were examined in the former way. These particular patients also had a higher risk profile after the change in method.

“We may conclude from the results of our study that examination using high-sensitivity troponin is associated with fewer serious cardiac events and an improvement in risk profile for patients released from emergency clinics with unspecified chest pain. The opposite was observed in patients sent home after admission to hospital, which suggests that high-risk patients are identified and hospitalised more frequently. We therefore conclude that high-sensitivity troponin has helped to improve the evaluation of emergency patients with unspecified chest pain,” said Svensson.

 “Outcomes in Patients With Chest Pain Discharged After Evaluation Using a High-Sensitivity Troponin T Assay,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 69(21):2622-2630 doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.03.586, doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2017.03.586


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