Promising new research published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reveals a simple blood test capable of predicting a heart patient’s near-term risk of suffering a heart attack or even death.

MedStarThe study identifies three cardiac biomarkers that when combined in an “aggregate score” serve as a strong predictor for identifying those at risk.

“These results have significant implications for the care of patients with heart disease,” says Stephen E. Epstein, MD, director, Translational and Vascular Biology Research MedStar Heart Institute, headquartered at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC.

Epstein and Arshed Quyyumi, MD, professor of medicine, of Emory University School of Medicine, are the research study’s senior authors. “The information supplied by this biomarker test gives physicians more clarity in deciding which patients with a history of heart disease need extensive diagnostic testing and more aggressive treatment,” Epstein says. “It will also help identify low-risk patients who can now avoid unnecessary tests and treatments.”

The biomarkers identified are high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrin degradation products (FDP) and heat shock protein 70 (HSP70). In the study, a patient who tests positive for all three biomarkers has a 16.3% risk of experiencing a heart attack or dying within1 year, compared to only 2.4% rate with no positive biomarkers. The individual, once identified as very high risk, may undergo additional testing including cardiac catheterization. The results of the additional tests, combined with the biomarker results, might lead to more aggressive therapy, including more intense medical treatment, angioplasty, or bypass surgery.

“As a practicing cardiologist, this evidence is very exciting,” says Susan Bennett, MD, a cardiologist at MedStar Heart Institute. “The ability to use a simple blood test to determine whether a patient with heart disease is at high or low risk for future heart attacks or death has the potential to have a significant impact on treatment and surveillance options with that patient moving forward. Also, the ability to target treatments enhances our ability to provide better health, better care at a potentially lower cost.”

Each year, about 1.2 million Americans suffer a heart attack. It is the leading killer of both men and women.

“Up until now, it was impossible to differentiate between the person with heart disease who has stable plaque, and not at high risk of a heart attack, versus the patient with unstable plaque, which is vulnerable to rupture and at very high risk for a heart attack,” Quyyumi says. “This test will help us better manage our heart patients by telling us which most urgently need aggressive diagnostic evaluation and treatment.”

Research title: Aggregate Risk Score Based on Markers of Inflammation, Cell Stress, and Coagulation is an Independent Predictor of Adverse Cardiovascular Outcomes appeared online May 7 and will be published in the July 23 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In 2013, MedStar Heart Institute entered into a first-of-its-kind clinical and research alliance with Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute.

[Source: MedStar Heart Institute]