Researchers working to decode chemical SOS signals sent out by disease-damaged hearts believe they now know better when to aggressively clear clogged arteries and when medical procedures may be unnecessary and even harmful.
The research, led by Uppsala University in Sweden, appears in the Sept. 19 edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
According to the research, high levels of two proteins in the bloodstream indicate that patients with acute coronary syndromes chest pain caused by lack of blood to the heart are at high risk of having potentially fatal heart attacks. Taking aggressive action to treat their blocked arteries will reduce their risk of dying within one year.
On the other hand, patients with low levels of these proteins, also called biomarkers, are not at high risk for deadly heart attacks and may even be harmed by having angioplasty or bypass surgery to treat blocked arteries.
The proteins troponin-T (TnT) and N-terminal pro-B-type natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) are just two of the biomarkers being studied by physicians and scientists around the world in an effort to improve treatment for a wide range of illnesses.
"Biomarkers are analyzed in blood samples taken from patients when they are admitted to the hospital," said Stefan James, MD, PhD, senior consultant cardiologist and catheterization laboratory director for Uppsala University Academic Hospital's Department of Cardiology. "With a better understanding of these markers, we will be able to assess risk for individual patients more accurately.
"We will also be able to individualize treatment alternatives," said Dr. James, lead author of the new study. "Thereby, we may avoid costly and potentially hazardous treatments for patients at low risk and still provide lifesaving and symptom-relieving medical and surgical treatments for those at high risk."