OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to prospectively evaluate the usefulness of the cardiac troponins as predictors of subsequent cardiac events in patients with chronic renal failure undergoing dialysis. BACKGROUND: Cardiac troponin T (cTnT) and I (cTnI) are cardiac markers that are specific for cardiac muscle. They are also excellent prognostic indicators for patients presenting with chest pain. Although cardiac disease is the leading cause of death in dialysis patients, standard methods to diagnose acute coronary syndromes in patients with renal failure are often misleading. METHODS: A six-month prospective study was done in a university- affiliated Veterans Hospital's dialysis clinic. Forty-nine patients undergoing chronic dialysis with no complaints of chest pain were followed for cardiac events occurring in the six months after cardiac troponin measurements. These included unstable angina, acute myocardial infarction and cardiac death. An additional 83 patients with renal failure but who were not undergoing dialysis were also examined. RESULTS: Within six months all three dialysis patients with elevated cTnI at entry into the study suffered an adverse complication (specificity and positive predictive value = 100%). Twenty-five patients had cTnT elevated at >0.10 ng/ml (53%). Patients with diabetes were more likely to have elevated troponin T levels (64% vs. 25%, p = 0.01). All six patients developing cardiac events within three months had elevations of cTnT >0.1 ng/ml (sensitivity = 100%). Whereas the specificity of cTnT was only 56% for a near-term cardiac event, the negative predictive value of cTnT using a cutoff of ≤0.1 ng/ml was 100%. On restratifying patients using a cutoff value of cTnT of >0.2 ng/ml, only nine of 49 dialysis patients (18%) had elevated levels. In patients with renal failure not undergoing dialysis, only three of 83 (4%) had elevated troponin I or T. None of these patients suffered a cardiac event in the next six months. CONCLUSIONS: This prospective pilot study clearly delineates the troponins as important prognosticators in asymptomatic otherwise 'stable' patients on chronic dialysis, especially those with concomitant diabetes mellitus. It also appears that troponins are more likely to be elevated in dialysis patients than other patients with renal failure not on dialysis. The above suggests that the combination of cTnI and cTnT might be very effective in elucidating cardiac risks of patients with renal failure undergoing chronic dialysis.
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