Dr. Stanley Bernstein wants people to save their own lives simply by passing a little urine. Bernstein has developed a urine test he believes is the swiftest detector of heart attacks in people who have complained of chest pains. The difficulty of early and accurate diagnosis of heart disease has long troubled doctors, often because many people refuse to believe chest pains are due to anything more than indigestion, muscle aches or, at worst, a gallbladder attack. But, Bernstein says, these are frequent, and too often fatal, misjudgments.
Bernstein, who is 48, developed his test over a two-year period as chief of medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford, Conn. The test, whether or not the patient has had a heart attack, takes only a few minutes and has given almost 100% accurate results in Bernstein’s controlled studies. Basically, he explains, the test attempts to show the existence in the blood of myoglobin, a protein found in heart and other muscle tissue. When a person suffers a heart attack, myoglobin is released from the damaged heart muscle into the blood, by which it reaches the kidneys. Once excreted in urine, it can be detected on a special slide “impregnated” with myoglobin antibody.
Dr. Bernstein believes, furthermore, that a “positive” chemical reaction on the tiny plate may also indicate the severity of the heart attack. “The worse the attack,” he says, “the bigger the reaction.” Measuring the severity takes longer, up to four hours. In any case, especially in milder heart attacks, he says his technique is faster than the conventional methods—the electrocardiogram and the blood enzyme test. He stresses that his test cannot predict heart attack but only confirm it. Bernstein believes that emergency rooms, ambulances and doctors in private practice will soon be making use of his simple procedure. “Kits” consisting of the plastic plates treated with antibody are now being developed in California. They will cost about $5.
Dr. Bernstein left his research and teaching post at Mount Sinai last month to set up private practice in Hollywood, Fla. “I’d rather take care of patients full time,” he says. Before moving to Florida, he accepted an associate professorship at the University of Miami Medical School, to insure, as he says, “that I keep my fingers in teaching too.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Dr. Bernstein practiced as an internist after graduating from NYU Medical School. He was a part-time staffer at Long Island Jewish Hospital before joining Mount Sinai five years ago. Climate played a role in his decision to leave America’s insurance capital: “I am an avid golfer. And it’s nice working for yourself. There’s no board of directors watching over you, and you set your own limits.”