The troponin test measures the levels of certain proteins called troponin T and troponin I in the blood. These proteins are released when the heart muscle has been damaged, such as 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.
A blood sample is needed. For information on how this is done, see: Venipuncture
How to prepare for the test
Usually, no special preparation is necessary.
How the test will feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, you may feel moderate pain, or only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.
Why the test is performed
The most common reason to perform this test is to determine if chest pain is due to a heart attack. Your doctor will order this test if you have chest pain and signs of a heart attack. The test is usually repeated two more times over the next 12 to 16 hours.
Your doctor may also order this test if you have angina that is getting worse, but no signs of a heart attack.
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.
Your test results are usually considered normal if the results are:
Troponin I : less than 10 µg/L
Troponin T : 0–0.1 µg/L
Normal troponin levels 12 hours after chest pain has started mean a heart attack is unlikely.
The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Some labs use different measurements or test different samples. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
What abnormal results mean
An increase in the troponin level, even a slight one, usually means there has been some damage to the heart. Significantly 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.
There is very little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks associated with having blood drawn are slight but may include:
Fainting or feeling light-headed
Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Increased troponin levels may also be seen in people with certain chronic health conditions such as heart failure, long-term kidney disease, and stable heart disease. Increased levels in these and other conditions can be a sign that a patient is at increased risk for bad outcomes.
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David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.