High sensitivity test could improve heart attack diagnosis in women

4 September 2013        

Blood drip

Using a high sensitivity blood test could detect twice as many women who have had a heart attack, compared with the current test used by the NHS, according to preliminary data from a study we funded.

The study, which was funded by your donations and carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, could help doctors find those women at greatest risk of having another heart attackCoronary heart disease is one of the biggest killers of women in the UK. More than 30,500 die from it each year – the majority from a heart attack.

Researchers evaluated a blood test for a protein called troponin. Troponin leaks into the blood from heart muscle cells after they’re damaged by a heart attack. Doctors measure troponin to see if someone with chest pains has had a heart attack. The test can measure much lower levels of troponin than the standard test.

Women and heart disease

Heart disease in women is currently underdiagnosed and undertreated. This study might indicate a reason for that – after a heart attack, women appear to have lower troponin levels than men. Until now, it has been assumed that levels of this marker of heart damage are the same in men and women.

Professor Peter Weissberg, our Medical Director, said: 

The test could save more women’s lives.


“It is well recognised that having a mild heart attack puts you at greater risk of having a more serious one in the future if it’s not identified and treated. We also know that women with heart disease are less easily identified than men.

“This research has shown that the normal range for a blood test – that detects small amounts of heart damage – is different in men and women. When results are adjusted for this difference, many more women are identified with underlying heart disease than with the conventional test. If confirmed in larger studies, these results suggest that the test could save more women’s lives by identifying those at risk of a major heart attack.”

The data was presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Conference 2013, Amsterdam.

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