The research was funded by the British Heart Foundation.
Using a new, highly sensitive blood test in A&E departments could help better diagnose and treat heart attacks, reducing the risk of further attacks or death in the future, researchers have said.
A trial led by the University of Edinburgh found that using a new test that measures troponin – a protein released into the blood after a heart injury – could reduce future heart attacks in at-risk patients by 10% after five years.
The new test was more accurate than older versions, researchers said, and those who benefited most were patients with heart muscle injuries caused by conditions such as heart failure, heart valve conditions and arrhythmias.
To determine its effectiveness, the research team looked at test results for almost 50,000 people who visited 10 A&E departments across Scotland with a suspected heart attack between 2013 and 2016.
They used data service DataLoch to follow-up all patients for five years.
The team found more than 10,000 patients had high troponin levels, which indicates a heart injury, using the new test.
Lead author Dr Ken Lee, clinical lecturer in cardiology at the University of Edinburgh, said: “In the past, clinicians could have been falsely reassured by the results of the less sensitive troponin test, discharging patients that appeared to not have heart disease.
“This new high sensitivity test is the tool they needed, prompting them to look deeper and helping them to identify and treat both heart attacks and less obvious heart problems.
“In our trial, introducing this test led to an impressive reduction in the number of future heart attacks and deaths seen in this at-risk group.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the research, said: “Medical professionals in emergency departments need the most efficient and accurate tools to look after people.
“This particularly applies to those who arrive with a suspected heart attack.
“Such a time-sensitive and life-threatening condition requires the very best diagnostic tests.
“It is very encouraging to see that the new test trialled here is better at predicting long-term outcomes for these patients, whether they had a heart attack or a different kind of heart injury. This can lead to improved care for such patients.”