[Skip to Navigation]
August 7, 2019

Myocardial Injury in the Era of High-Sensitivity Cardiac Troponin Assays: A Practical Approach for Clinicians

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston
  • 2Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 4Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  • 5Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, Hennepin Healthcare/Hennepin County Medical Center and University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
  • 6Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 7Division of Cardiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 8Baim Institute for Clinical Research, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Cardiol. 2019;4(10):1034-1042. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2019.2724

Importance  Traditionally, elevated troponin concentrations were synonymous with myocardial infarction. But with improvements in troponin assays, elevated concentrations without overt myocardial ischemia are now more common; this is referred to as myocardial injury. Physicians may be falsely reassured by the absence of myocardial ischemia; however, recent evidence suggests that myocardial injury is associated with even more detrimental outcomes. Accordingly, this article reviews the definition, epidemiology, differential diagnosis, diagnostic evaluation, and management of myocardial injury.

Observations  Current epidemiological evidence suggests that myocardial injury without overt ischemia represents about 60% of cases of abnormal troponin concentrations when obtained for clinical indications, and 1 in 8 patients presenting to the hospital will have evidence of myocardial injury. Myocardial injury is a concerning prognosis; the 5-year mortality rate is approximately 70%, with a major adverse cardiovascular event rate of 30% in the same period. The differential diagnosis is broad and can be divided into acute and chronic precipitants. The initial workup involves an assessment for myocardial ischemia. If infarction is ruled out, further evaluation includes a detailed history, physical examination, laboratory testing, a 12-lead electrocardiogram, and (if there is no known history of structural or valvular heart disease) an echocardiogram. Unfortunately, no consensus exists on routine management of patients with myocardial injury. Identifying and treating the underlying precipitant is the most practical approach.

Conclusion and Relevance  Myocardial injury is the most common cause of abnormal troponin results, and its incidence will likely increase with an aging population, increasing prevalence of cardiovascular comorbidities, and greater sensitivity of troponin assays. Myocardial injury represents a challenge to clinicians; however, given its serious prognosis, it warrants a thorough evaluation of its underlying precipitant. Future strategies to prevent and/or manage myocardial injury are needed.