Diagnosis of Heart Attacks

Of the nearly five million patients who come into emergency rooms each year with chest pains, only about 40 percent can immediately diagnosed with a heart attack, using standard tests. Now a new study is laying the groundwork for a dramatic change in how heart attacks are diagnosed.

Doctors say using MRI's, which are images that can detect even the smallest damage to a patient's heart without surgery. The images can be produced quickly while there is still time to prevent permanent damage to the heart.

The MRI can give information on the wall motion of the heart, the function of the heart as well as the profusion or the blood supply to the tissues.

In 1999 physicians from suburban hospital in Bethesda, Maryland and researchers from the National Institutes of Health had begun a study on the MRI as an emergency diagnostic tool.

For four years doctors compared the MRI testing with three standard diagnostic tests, an EKG, blood enzyme tests and a risk score based on clinical characteristics of the patient. Doctors found that the MRI detected all of the patients heart attacks even those who's EKG's came back normal.

The American Heart Association says about two percent of heart attack patients are discharged from the ER with their heart attacks un-detected.

Many patients with unstable angina or excessive plaque build up are also sent home without a correct diagnosis. Those patients are twice as likely to die as those whose conditions are detected and treated.

The results published in the issue of Circulation suggest more patients who are suffering a heart attack or who have severe blockages in their coronary arteries could receive treatment to reduce or prevent permanent damage to the heart if they are diagnosed with an MRI.


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