A SIMPLE algorithm could help clinicians diagnose heart attacks more accurately among patients presenting in emergency departments with chest pain.

When researchers at Edinburgh University tested the algorithm on 20,761 people with potential heart attack, they found that it accurately ruled out a heart attack 99.8 per cent of the time.

The algorithm, called MI3, can also more accurately identify those who might benefit from further, more invasive, heart tests.

The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress, which is being held remotely this year due to the Covid pandemic.

The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Dimitrios Doudesis, a PhD student who conducted the research at Edinburgh University's BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: “Our algorithm combines readily available information, such as a patient’s age and sex, with the results of high-sensitivity troponin blood tests to work out the likelihood that each individual patient is having a heart attack.”

Troponin are proteins which help regulate the contractions of the heart and skeletal muscles.

The heart releases troponin into the blood following an injury, such as a heart attack, so high troponin levels can indicate a problem with the muscle.

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Mr Doudesis added: “If a larger clinical trial confirmed these results, this technology could easily be converted into a mobile app available for use in Emergency Departments across the country.”

There are more than 200,000 hospital visits each year in the UK due to heart attacks. But chest pain, which can have a number of different causes, is thought to be responsible for over half a million visits to UK Emergency Departments each year.

Dr Ken Lee, BHF clinical research fellow at Edinburgh University, who was a co-investigator in the study said: “Heart attacks can be surprisingly difficult to diagnose.

"Years of research have meant that we can use a blood test to tell us if person’s heart is damaged. However, this damage isn’t always caused by a heart attack.

“The quicker we can rule a heart attack in or out, the quicker we can treat the patient and the better the result for everyone.”

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Professor Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Each year in the UK, over half a million people go to hospital suffering from chest pain.

"The quicker doctors can work out whether this chest pain is caused by a heart attack, the quicker they can start treating people.

“Measuring troponin in the blood is the current gold standard for diagnosing a heart attack.

"This AI-based method could increase the power of the troponin test and make heart attack diagnosis even more accurate in individual patients, allowing them to be more quickly and effectively treated or reassured and sent home.”