Shortness of breath plagues tens of millions of people every year and is a leading cause of emergency room visits. For physicians, diagnosing the reasons behind it is difficult. However, a new symptom panel approved by the FDA is saving time, money and lives.
It wasn't long ago that Austin Hickman spent more time in the emergency room than he did in his own backyard.
Many times he would come into the hospital and it wouldn't be clear what was causing his shortness of breath.
"I asked the er doctor, 'Well, why can't I breathe?"
While diagnosing a patient struggling to breathe is difficult, Dr Philip Adamson, who is a cardiologist, says a delay could mean the difference between life and death.
"It can take quite a while and it can be rather confusing and the tools that have recently been developed have been a major break through in stream-lining care."
The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a shortness of breath symptom panel. The multiple tests, which are now combined into one device, helps doctors quickly determine if a patient's symptom is related to a heart attack, heart failure or a pulmonary embolism.
While patients, hospitals and insurance companies, spend millions of dollars on complicated testing and wait hours for the results, the turn around time on this blood test is just fifteen minutes.
The fast test results could mean relief for overcrowded hospitals as well.
"The patients that don't need to be here you figure that out sooner and they get to go home quicker so it serves to decongest the emergency department."