The diagnosis of a postoperative myocardial infarction (PMI) is important in the orthopedic population because these events can be associated with significant cardiac morbidity. Plasma troponin I (cTnI) analysis has markedly increased our ability to detect myocardial damage. Using cTnI analysis for evidence of a PMI, we prospectively assessed all of our patients for (1) the 1-year incidence of PMI, (2) the clinical consequences of a PMI in relation to the level of the cTnI release, and (3) 6-month follow-up for cardiac complications. During a 12-month period, patients at risk for perioperative myocardial ischemia were assessed for a PMI by serum cTnI levels and daily serial ECGs. Patients with cTnI levels above the reference level (≥0.4 ng/ml) were also assessed for new cardiac regional wall motion abnormalities with an echocardiogram and 6-month postdischarge adverse cardiac events. Of the 758 patients who were assessed for a PMI, 49 patients had detectable cTnI levels (≥0.4 ng/ml); the incidence of a PMI was 0.6% of all surgical cases and 6.5% of those patients were at risk for a cardiac event. A PMI was more common after hip arthroplasty than other orthopedic procedures. Twenty-three patients had a cTnI level >3.0 ng/ml, and 74% these patients (17/23) had anginal symptoms and/or ischemic ECG changes. Nine of these patients (9/23) had new postoperative echocardiographic changes, five (5/23) required emergency transfer to a cardiac care unit, and 10 (10/23) had postoperative cardiac complications. In contrast, 15 patients with levels of cTnI <3.0 ng/ml and without ischemic ECG changes and/or anginal symptoms had no postoperative cardiac complications. Fourteen patients (14/47) had cardiac complications 6 months after discharge, including four cardiac deaths, one fatal stroke, and four patients with unstable anginal episodes that required a change in medical management, and six patients required coronary revascularization. Orthopedic surgical patients with cTnI level <3 ng/ml and without symptoms or ECG changes suggestive of myocardial ischemia (15/49) may have different risks than those with higher-level cTn1
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