Doctors could spot twice as many heart attacks in women by using a newer, more sensitive blood test, a study claims.
The test looks for minute traces of a protein that signals that the heart muscle may have been damaged.
Standard tests still used by much of the NHS only detect higher levels of this protein, called troponin.
Research from the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh shows the standard test misses many cases of heart attack in women with symptoms like chest pain.
A heart attack is a medical emergency and early diagnosis and treatment can mean the difference between life and death.
Doctors rely on blood tests to help them judge if a patient with chest pain might be having an attack, but a normal result can mean the diagnosis is overlooked.
The British Heart Foundation-funded study, reported in the BMJ, included 1,126 men and women who had been admitted with a suspected heart attack.
Using the standard troponin test, almost twice as many men as women were diagnosed as having a heart attack – 117 versus 55.
When the researchers used the more sensitive test, the number of women diagnosed with heart attacks doubled to 111 or 22%.
In comparison, the sensitive test only spotted a handful of extra cases among the men.
And the researchers noticed that the extra men and women picked up by the sensitive test were at higher risk of dying or having another heart attack in the following year.
Researcher Dr Anoop Shah said that while similar numbers of men and women attend A&E with chest pains, women are less likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack.
Story courtesy of BBC News