MONDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- Most people who go to the emergency room with chest pain aren't having a heart attack, but it can take hours or days to make a definitive diagnosis.
However, a new study finds that a special kind of CT scan given in the emergency room seems to identify a heart attack faster than traditional methods, so patients can be sent home safely sooner.
"You can go to an emergency department with chest pain, be concerned it might be a heart attack -- get a CT scan, like we do for everything else in the emergency department -- and we can say it's not your heart and you can go home, within a couple of hours," said researcher Dr. Judd Hollander, clinical research director of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.
"We can now answer the questions faster, and let people go home sooner," he said.
Using the CT scan is faster, Hollander said, noting it can take 25 hours to get the results of blood tests that indicate whether a patient has had a heart attack.
"And an EKG only shows if you are having the big one," Hollander added. "So, if it's negative it doesn't tell you if you are having a smaller heart attack, and two-thirds of heart attacks will have an EKG that's not diagnostic."
For every 100 patients who go to an ER with chest pain, only 10 or 15 have cardiac disease, Hollander said. "The other 90 percent end up with nothing serious," he added.
In addition, ERs are busy and crowded, and this is a way to move patients out faster and increase the ability to see more patients sooner, he said.
The findings were to be presented Monday at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting in Chicago. They will also be published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For the study, Hollander's team randomly assigned more than 1,300
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