Generally, doctors diagnose heart disease by taking a history of symptoms, a physical exam, an electrocardiogram, an ultrasound scan and blood tests to rule out other causes, such as kidney disease. Even with all this, they are often wrong.
A 15-minute blood test allows doctors to accurately find out whether patients with severe shortness of breath are suffering from congestive heart failure.
This test is the most significant improvement in the diagnosis of heart failure in the past 20 years. Tens of millions of people go to the emergency room each year because of trouble breathing. Heart failure is one of the worst and most common causes but far from the only one. Until recently, there was no simple test for heart failure, and doctors often confuse it with other diseases.
This study shows that a $22 test that measures a protein released by stressed heart muscle can quickly sort out whose bad breathing is caused by heart failure, which occurs when the heart cannot pump forcefully enough. The test, called Triage, is already used by about 500 U.S. hospitals. It measures levels of a protein called B-type natriuretic peptide, which is often greatly elevated during heart failure.
The study found that the test alone is 83 percent accurate in diagnosing heart failure in people. It was conducted on 1,586 men and women at 9 hospitals in the US and Europe.