A blood test to quickly diagnose whether a patient has heart failure could soon be available in Scotland.
The blood test can rule out suspected heart failure
NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (QIS) has recommended to NHS Scotland that the blood test should be made available to GP practices.
The blood test, which provides a speedy diagnosis, confirms the absence of heart failure.
The potentially life-threatening condition can be treated if it is diagnosed early enough.
The move would mean unnecessary and potentially harmful treatment for suspected heart failure while waiting to see a specialist could be avoided, along with anxiety and uncertainty.
Heart failure limits the heart's ability to pump blood and symptoms include breathlessness, fatigue and ankle swelling.
However, these symptoms can have many other causes and studies show that more than 50% of patients referred with suspected heart failure do not have their initial diagnosis confirmed by a specialist.
NHS QIS medical advisor Dr Harpreet Kohli said: "The blood test allows the fast ruling out of heart failure, which reduces patient anxiety and enables other causes for symptoms to be looked at.
"More resources can be devoted to patients who do need follow-up for possible heart failure."
Heart failure mainly affects older people and in Scotland the average age for patients attending their GP with the condition is 77.
NHS QIS looked at evidence on the medical, social, ethical and economic implications of using the blood test.
A spokesman said talks were at the early stages but it was hoped the blood test could be used by doctors in Scotland within the next year.
A spokesman for the Scottish Executive welcomed the recommendations.