NEWS | April 8, 2019

Is there a better way to test for heart attacks in women in emergency departments?


Compared to men, women having a heart attack experience longer delays to diagnosis, receive less aggressive care and have worse outcomes.

Bryn Mumma in UC Davis Medical Center's emergency department Bryn Mumma in UC Davis Medical Center's emergency department

But clinical research led by Bryn Mumma, assistant professor of emergency medicine at UC Davis Health, aims to evaluate threshold levels that confirm the presence of heart muscle damage in women. Her study is funded with a $100,000 Heart to Heart grant from the Alpha Phi Foundation.

Current tests for detecting heart attacks in the emergency department measure troponin levels in the blood, which rise in response to heart muscle damage. 

“The high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T test (hs-cTn) is the first troponin test to be released with both a single, combined cut point and with separate, sex-specific cut points for women and men,” Mumma said. “We don’t have enough data to understand the clinical implications of using these sex-specific cut points or to know how to integrate them into our current decision-making algorithms for patients with chest pain.”

The research has the potential to shift the paradigm of medical care to use sex-specific cut points to more quickly identify heart attacks and the value of sex in cardiac risk stratification strategies.

The UC Davis study will follow 1,000 patients undergoing troponin testing in the emergency department, assessing sex-specific troponin cut points in a U.S. population to assess sex in addition to other factors in predicting 30-day and 1-year cardiac outcomes.