Background: Elevated troponin I in the absence of angiographically visible coronary lesions is seen in up to 10-15% of those undergoing angiography for suspected coronary artery disease. This study aims to elucidate the etiology of elevated cardiac troponin I in patients with normal coronary arteries on angiography.
Methods: We identified 1551 (8.6%) patients with normal coronary arteries from our catheterization database of 17,950 patients from Jan 2000 to Jun 2004. Elevated troponin I levels were found in 217 (14%) of 1551 patients with normal coronary arteries. Of these 217 patients, 73 surgical patients were excluded, and the remaining 144 patients formed the study population. The study population was compared with age and gender matched patients with myocardial infarction and coronary artery disease (Group II).
Results: The patients with elevated cardiac troponin I (cTnI) with normal coronary arteries had significantly lower prevalence of atherosclerotic risk factors and significantly higher left ventricular ejection fractions. The cTnI in patients with normal coronary arteries was elevated due to a number of causes including tachycardia, myocarditis, pericarditis, severe aortic stenosis, gastrointestinal bleeding, sepsis, left ventricular hypertrophy, severe congestive heart failure, cerebrovascular accident, electrical trauma, myocardial contusion, hypertensive emergency, myocardial bridging, pulmonary embolism, diabetic ketoacidosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation and coronary spasm.
Conclusions: Cardiac troponin I could be elevated in a number of conditions, apart from acute myocardial infarction, and could reflect myonecrosis. Acute myocardial infarction is a clinical diagnosis as the laboratory is an aide to, not a replacement for, informed decision making.