Acute coronary syndromes (ACS) are due to the rupture or erosion of atheromatous plaques. This produces, depending on plaque size, vascular anatomy and degree of collateral circulation, progressive tissue ischaemia which may progress to cardiomyocyte necrosis. This may then result in cardiac remodelling. Serum biomarkers are available which can be used for diagnosis of all of these stages. Markers to detect myocardial ischaemia at the pre-infarction stage are potentially the most interesting but also the most challenging. An ischaemia marker offers the opportunity to intervene to prevent progression to infarction. The problems with potential ischaemia markers are specificity and the reference diagnostic standard against which they can be judged. To date, only one, ischaemia-modified albumin(R), has reached the point where clinical studies can be performed. The measurement of the cardiac troponins, cardiac troponin T and cardiac troponin I, have become recognised as the diagnostic reference standard for myocardial necrosis. The sensitive nature of these tests has also revealed that myocardial necrosis is also found in a range of other clinical situations, highlighting the need to use all clinical information for diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction. The measurement of B-type natriuretic peptides can be shown to be diagnostic and prognostic in both ACS and detecting the sequelae of post-infarction myocardial insufficiency. The role of the B-type natriuretic peptides in detection of cardiac failure, both acute and chronic, is well defined but remains the subject of further studies, in ACS.