Background: Cardiac troponin T is a regulatory contractile protein not normally found in blood. Its detection in the circulation has been shown to be a sensitive and specific marker for myocardial cell damage. We used a newly developed enzyme immunoassay for troponin T to determine whether its presence in the serum of patients with unstable angina was a prognostic indicator.
Methods: We screened 109 patients with unstable angina (25 with accelerated or subacute angina and 84 with acute angina at rest) for serum creatine kinase activity, creatine kinase isoenzyme MB activity, and troponin T every eight hours for two days after admission to the hospital. The outcomes of interest during the hospitalization were death and myocardial infarction.
Results: Troponin T was detected (range, 0.20 to 3.64 micrograms per liter; mean, 0.78; median, 0.50) in the serum of 33 of the 84 patients (39 percent) with acute angina at rest. Only three of these patients had elevated creatine kinase MB activity (two were positive for troponin T, and one was negative). Of the 33 patients who were positive for troponin T, 10 (30 percent) had myocardial infarction (3 after coronary-artery bypass surgery), and 5 of these died during hospitalization. In contrast, only 1 of the 51 patients with angina at rest who were negative for troponin T had an acute myocardial infarction (P less than 0.001), and this patient died (P = 0.03). Thus, 10 of the 11 patients with myocardial infarctions had detectable levels of troponin T; only 1 had elevated creatine kinase MB activity. Troponin T was not detected in any of the 25 patients with accelerated or subacute angina, and none of these patients died.
Conclusions: Cardiac troponin T in serum appears to be a more sensitive indicator of myocardial-cell injury than serum creatine kinase MB activity, and its detection in the circulation may be a useful prognostic indicator in patients with unstable angina.