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Ann Thorac Surg. 2008 Apr;85(4):1348-54. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2007.12.077.

Troponin after cardiac surgery: a predictor or a phenomenon?

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Division of Cardiac and Vascular Surgery, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Increased cardiac troponin is observed after virtually every cardiac operation, indicating perioperative myocardial injury. The clinical significance of this elevation is controversial. This study aimed to correlate postoperative troponin levels with major adverse cardiac events (MACE).


The study included 1918 consecutive patients undergoing adult cardiac operations, including 1515 isolated coronary procedures, 229 valvular operations, and 174 combined coronary/valve procedures. Peak troponin T (normal value < 0.1 microg/L) was measured at less than 24 hours postoperatively. Excluded were 506 patients with a recent myocardial infarction (< 30-days of operation). The primary outcome was a composite of death, electrocardiogram-defined infarction, and low output syndrome (MACE).


Mortality rates were 1.4%, 6.1%, and 7% in the coronary bypass, valve, and combined groups, respectively (p < 0.001). The rates of MACE were 17%, 35%, and 44% (p < 0.0001), and mean troponin T levels were 0.9 +/- 1.5, 1.2 +/- 2.9, and 1.3 +/- 1.2 microg/L (p < 0.001), in the coronary bypass, valve, and combined groups, respectively. All patients were divided into quintiles based on their peak postoperative troponin level (Q1, 0.0 to 0.39; Q2, 0.4 to 0.59; Q3, 0.6 to 0.79; Q4, 0.8 to 1.29; and Q5, > 1.3 microg/L). Adverse outcomes were similar and stable in the lower quintiles. A stepwise increase in adverse outcomes was observed in the higher quintiles. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis revealed a troponin cutoff of 0.8 microg/L was the most discriminatory for MACE (area under the curve, 0.7). Multivariable analyses showed a troponin value of more than 0.8 microg/L was independently associated with MACE.


Moderate elevations in troponin are common after cardiac operations; troponin is a well-described predictor of outcomes. Troponin levels exceeding 0.8 microg/L are associated with increased MACE in patients without a history of preoperative myocardial infarction within 30 days of operation.

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