In a recent clinical trial, Swiss and Spanish researchers tried a new technique in determining whether a patient has had a heart attack — as a quick and effective step to figure out a patient’s immediate care and also help prevent future cardiovascular events. The technique would diagnose a patient within the hour.

In the study, researchers reviewed 1,320 patients who had been in the emergency room for suspected acute myocardial infarction (MI), another term for a heart attack. The technique, which involves a high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T 1-hour algorithm, was applied to blood samples from the patients. The researchers discovered that 786 (or 60 percent) of patients didn’t have a heart attack, 16 percent did, and 24 percent didn’t have fully conclusive results and needed to be checked further.

“Introducing the high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T 1-hour algorithm into clinical practice would represent a profound change, and it is therefore important to determine if it works in a large patient group,” said Dr. Tobias Reichlin of the Division of Cardiology at the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, and an author of the study, in a press release.

Typically, doctors diagnose heart attacks after the fact through an EKG (electrocardiogram), which records the heart’s electrical activity. An EKG can show heart damage due to coronary heart disease (CHD), as well as the precursors to a heart attack or a current heart attacks. Blood tests can also detect changes of protein levels in the blood after a heart attack, and a coronary angiography is a type of X-ray test that allows doctors to see the inside of coronary arteries.

But these techniques often take hours to complete. According to a previous study on the new technique, published in 2012, heart attack patients make up about 10 percent of all emergency department consultations, and often delays in diagnosing disease “holds back prompt use of evidence-based therapies.”

The new technique, however, would eliminate much of this delay if incorporated into hospitals, the authors argue.

“This rapid strategy incorporating high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T baseline values and absolute changes after the first hour substantially accelerates the management of patients with suspected acute MI by allowing safe rule-out as well as accurate rule-in of acute MI in three out of four patients,” the authors of the new study wrote.

In other words, finding ways to quickly diagnose heart attacks could be hugely helpful in the clinical setting, giving doctors the time to start early treatment and also manage any cardiovascular events.