Background: Evaluation of patients with acute chest pain in emergency rooms is time-consuming and expensive, and it often results in uncertain diagnoses. We prospectively investigated the usefulness of bedside tests for the detection of cardiac troponin T and troponin I in the evaluation of patients with acute chest pain.
Methods: In 773 consecutive patients who had had acute chest pain for less than 12 hours without ST-segment elevation on their electrocardiograms, troponin T and troponin I status (positive or negative) was determined at least twice by sensitive, qualitative bedside tests based on the use of specific monoclonal antibodies. Testing was performed on arrival and four or more hours later so that one sample was taken at least six hours after the onset of pain. The troponin T results were made available to the treating physicians.
Results: Troponin T tests were positive in 123 patients (16 percent), and troponin I tests were positive in 171 patients (22 percent). Among 47 patients with evolving myocardial infarction, troponin T tests were positive in 44 (94 percent) and troponin I tests were positive in all 47. Among 315 patients with unstable angina, troponin T tests were positive in 70 patients (22 percent), and troponin I tests were positive in 114 patients (36 percent). During 30 days of follow-up, there were 20 deaths and 14 nonfatal myocardial infarctions. Troponin T and troponin I proved to be strong, independent predictors of cardiac events. The event rates in patients with negative tests were only 1.1 percent for troponin T and 0.3 percent for troponin I.
Conclusions: Bedside tests for cardiac-specific troponins are highly sensitive for the early detection of myocardial-cell injury in acute coronary syndromes. Negative test results are associated with low risk and allow rapid and safe discharge of patients with an episode of acute chest pain from the emergency room.