A troponin test measures the levels troponin T or troponin I proteins in the blood. These proteins are released when the heart muscle has been damaged, such as occurs with a heart attack. The more damage there is to the heart, the greater the amount of troponin T and I there will be in the blood.
No special steps are needed to prepare, most of the time.
How the Test will Feel
You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.
Why the Test is Performed
The most common reason to perform this test is to see if a heart attack has occurred. Your doctor will order this test if you have chest pain and other signs of a heart attack. The test is usually repeated two more times over the next 6 to 24 hours.
Your doctor may also order this test if you have angina that is getting worse, but no other signs of a heart attack. (Angina is chest pain thought to be from a part of your heart not getting enough blood flow.)
The troponin test may also be done to help detect and evaluate other causes of heart injury.
Cardiac troponin levels are normally so low they cannot be detected with most blood tests.
Having normal troponin levels 12 hours after chest pain has started means a heart attack is unlikely.
A normal value range may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Also, some labs have different cutoff points for "normal" and "probable myocardial infarction." Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Even a slight increase in the troponin level will often mean there has been some damage to the heart. Very high levels of troponin are a sign that a heart attack has occurred.
Most patients who have had a heart attack have increased troponin levels within 6 hours. After 12 hours, almost everyone who has had a heart attack will have raised levels.
Troponin levels may remain high for 1 to 2 weeks after a heart attack.
Increased troponin levels may also result from certain medical procedures such as:
Heart defibrillation or electrical cardioversion (purposeful shocking of the heart by medical personnel to correct an abnormal heart rhythm)
Open heart surgery
Radiofrequency ablation of the heart
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O'Gara PT, et al. 2013: ACC/AHA Guidelines for the Management of Patients With ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction. Circulation. 2013;127:e363-e425.
Patil H, Vaidya O and Bogart D. A review of causes and systemic approach to cardiac troponin elevation. Clin Cardiol. 2011 Dec;34(12):723-8.
Sabatine MS, Cannon CC. Approach to the patient with chest pain. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 53.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.