Lifespan researcher develops first blood test to predict risk of sudden cardiac death

April 4, 2014

A researcher at the Cardiovascular Institute (CVI) at Rhode Island, The Miriam and Newport Hospitals, has found that a simple blood test can predict a person's risk for sudden cardiac death, enabling physicians to more quickly and accurately assess a patient's need for an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD). The research, co-authored by Samuel C. Dudley, MD, PhD, chief of cardiology at the CVI, is published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“The primary prevention model for at-risk patients in the United States is to implant an ICD before a cardiac event happens,” says Dudley. “While it's better to be safe, this has led to widespread overuse of ICDs throughout the U.S. and abroad. With this blood test, we can refine the need for such a device, and instead implant the cardiac defibrillators only in the most severe cases of sudden cardiac death risk.”

Currently, risk assessments are determined by measuring the fraction of blood ejected from the heart in any one heartbeat, the ejection fraction. When the ejection fraction falls below 35%, a patient may benefit from an ICD. It is believed that approximately 60% of patients who receive defibrillators as a result of these assessments may not actually need one. This blood test will determine more accurately which patients do in fact need the defibrillator. The test is in a pilot phase and will be validated in a large, multi-site trial led by Dudley and other researchers at Lifespan's CVI anticipated to start this fall. Read the abstract.

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