Background: The frequency and prognostic influence of myocardial injury in patients with blunt chest trauma is controversial. We investigated the value of cardiac troponin I (cTn-I) and cardiac troponin T (cTn-T), highly specific markers of myocardial injury, to determine whether their measurement would improve the ability to detect myocardial contusion in stable patients with blunt chest trauma in comparison with conventional markers and whether they were associated with significantly worse late clinical outcome.
Methods and results: Over an 18-month period, myocardial contusion was diagnosed in 26 of 94 patients (27.6%) with acute blunt chest trauma (motor vehicle crash; 81%), because of echocardiographic abnormalities (n = 12), electrocardiographic abnormalities (n = 29), or both. Patients with myocardial contusion had a significantly higher Injury Severity Score at the time of admission (p = 0.001) and a significantly longer hospital stay (p = 0.0008). All patients survived admission to hospital and were hemodynamically stable. None of the patients died or had severe in-hospital cardiac complications. The percentage of patients with elevated CK, (CK-MB/total CK) ratio, or CK-MB mass concentration was not significantly different between patients with or without myocardial contusion. However, there were significant differences between the two groups when we applied the commonly used threshold levels of CK-MB activity and myoglobin. The percentage of patients with elevated circulating cTn-I and cTn-T (> or = 0.1 microg/L) was significantly higher in patients with myocardial contusion (23% vs. 3%; p = 0.01 and 12% vs. 0%; p = 0.03, respectively). Complete changes in cTn-I and cTn-T correlated well (r = 0.91, p = 0.0001). Sensitivity, specificity, and negative and positive predictive values of cTn-I and cTn-T in predicting a myocardial contusion in blunt trauma patients were 23%, 97%, and 77%, 75%, and 12%, 100%, and 74%, 100%, respectively. Clinical follow-up was available in 83 patients (88%) (mean, 16 +/- 7.5 months). There were no deaths in either group directly attributed to cardiac complications. None of the patients had any long-term cardiac complications or myocardial failure related to blunt chest trauma.
Conclusion: Although improved specificity of cTn-I and cTn-T compared with conventional markers, it should be emphasized that the main problem with cTn-I and cTn-T is low sensitivity as well as low predictive values in diagnosing myocardial contusion. cTn-I and cTn-T measurement is currently not an improved method in diagnosing blunt cardiac injury in hemodynamically stable patients. Moreover, there was no association of postmyocardial contusion cell injury and late outcome in these patients when cTn-I and cTn-T and other conventional markers were considered.