Think you're having a heart attack? Best to reach for a chewable aspirin tablet, researchers say.

Chewable aspirin tablets are more quickly and more completely absorbed compared to solid aspirin tablets swallowed whole or chewed, according to a study reported at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine annual meeting in New Orleans. Chewable aspirin may therefore be best for sudden heart attack, the study team concludes.

Treatment for a heart attack includes rapid administration of aspirin. Both the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend chewable aspirin for acute heart attack patients, Dr. Sean Nordt and co-researchers from University of California, San Diego, point out in a meeting poster, but the different methods of aspirin administration have not been directly compared.

To investigate, the researchers conducted a 3-way "crossover" study involving 14 adult volunteers who had not used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin within 7 days of the study.

After a 6-hour fast and with a 7-day "washout" period between crossovers, the volunteers were given a single 1950-mg dose of unbuffered aspirin as intact tablets swallowed whole; intact tablets chewed then swallowed; or chewable formulation of aspirin chewed and swallowed.

The chewable aspirin formulation, Nordt told Reuters Health, consistently showed greater and more rapid absorption than the other two formulations, whether swallowed whole or chewed.

For example, the serum concentration at 20 minutes was about 4 mg/dL with the chewable formulation compared to only about 2 mg/dL with the other two forms of administration.

"It is difficult to say if this is clinically relevant, but we would intuit that the more rapid and more complete aspirin absorption, the sooner the antiplatelet (clotting) effects would be seen," Nordt said.