We investigated the clinical utility of cardiac troponin T (TnT) and echocardiography in the emergency department to predict subsequent in-hospital diagnosis and adverse cardiac events. TnT is a cardiac-specific protein released during cell injury such as that following acute myocardial inFarction (MI). Unlike creatine kinase-MB isoenzymes, TnT is increased in a subset of patients with unstable angina, and these may be at higher risk for subsequent cardiac events. Echocardiography is a useful noninvasive imaging technique for the assessment of ischemic heart disease in acute care settings because of its mobility and rapid results. Serial TnT determinations and echocardiographic images were prospectively evaluated in 100 patients with chest discomfort and admitted to the hospital. Serum was obtained for CKMB and TnT on presentation to the emergency department and 4, 8, 16 and 24 hours later. TnT was considered increased when at values greater than 0.1 microg/L. Echocardiograms were recorded on videotape in the emergency department and images reviewed in a blinded fashion for wall-motion abnormalities. When available, current echocardiographic results were compared with previous results to determine whether a new wall-motion abnormality was present. Of the 100 patients (57 men, 43 women), TnT was increased in 21 of 21 with acute MI and 15 of 41 with unstable angina. One of the 38 patients with stable angina had an increased TnT value and died 5 months later of a noncardiac cause. Ninety percent of patients who sustained acute MI had a TnT increase detected within 4 hours of presentation. Fifteen of 18 patients with acute MI and 9 of 37 patients with unstable angina had a new wall-motion abnormality on echocardiography. The combination of TnT levels with echocardiography yielded a positive predictive value of 84% and a negative predictive value of 90% for adverse cardiac events in the follow-up population, which was more accurate than either test analyzed separately. TnT and echocardiography are useful tests in emergency department triage of unstable coronary syndromes. Both tests are predictive of discharge diagnosis and follow-up events. However, the combined utility of TnT levels and echocardiographic imaging is a more powerful predictor of adverse cardiac events than isolated results.