Better heart attack diagnosis – Jen’s story
BHF research has led to a test to improve diagnosis of heart attack in women, helping ensure they get the right treatment.
Women are diagnosed with heart attacks at a lower rate than men, which is costing lives.
Diagnosis involves a test for troponin, a protein released during heart attacks, but women release less troponin than men. The new test is more sensitive and can detect lower levels of troponin.
In trials so far, it has doubled the number of women correctly diagnosed in hospital as having had a heart attack, ensuring they can get immediate treatment.
When Jen Stevens, 42, was admitted to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh after collapsing with chest pains, doctors swiftly identified a heart attack thanks to the new test.
“I was having symptoms for six weeks before it happened,” says Jen. “I remember a crampy feeling across my chest and being slightly out of breath. I thought it was a bit of stress or a chest infection.”
As Christmas 2014 approached, the episodes intensified. Jen’s daughter persuaded her to see a GP, who performed an ECG but didn’t spot any problems.
A few days later, the pain returned. Jen collapsed and was taken to hospital. She was given a troponin test, which at around £5, doesn’t cost the NHS much, but saves lives.
“I didn’t know at the time that I was getting a troponin test,” says Jen. “Within 10 minutes, a cardiac nurse appeared and told me I’d had a cardiac episode.” One of Jen’s arteries was almost completely blocked. “It could have been a full cardiac arrest if left untreated,” she says.
Now, Jen is feeling good. “From then, it’s been all upwards,” she says. “I’ve changed my lifestyle and told my friends if they’re even slightly worried about anything to get it checked out. I was incredibly lucky. It could have been totally different.”