In This Article
In This Article
The troponin test or a cardiac troponin (cTn) assay measures the amount of troponin in the blood. Troponin is a protein found in the heart muscle.
Normally, troponin levels are so low they are undetectable. But small amounts will be released into your bloodstream when the heart is damaged.1
Doctors often test troponin levels to determine if you recently had a heart attack or are at risk. It’s also used to check for other forms of heart damage.
For this article, we asked our resident medical reviewer Dr. Rizza Mira about everything there is to know on the troponin test.
Doctors usually order a troponin test to see if you suffered a heart attack. It’s also used to assess patients who want to undergo surgery but have a high risk for heart damage.
According to Dr. Mira, troponin levels start increasing three hours after a suspected heart attack. Its levels peak at 24 hours.
Troponin testing can rule out a possible heart attack in patients with unstable angina. It’s a condition that causes chest pains because the heart isn’t receiving enough blood.
The troponin test measures the levels of two types of troponin in the blood: troponin T and I. These troponins are found mainly in the heart muscle.1
“Another type of troponin, troponin C is not specific to the heart muscle. So it’s included by most doctors,” explains Dr. Mira.
Troponins help the muscle tissue in the heart contract. They maintain your heartbeat and pump blood through your body. They are only released when the heart is damaged or injured.
A troponin test may look for troponin T or troponin I. It depends on the lab performing the test.
Your doctor will order a troponin test if you have recently experienced heart attack symptoms. These symptoms may include:
Troponin levels usually become elevated within 4 to 6 hours after symptoms appear.1
Your doctor may also order the test if you’re at risk of suffering heart damage from surgery. They might ask you to take the test before and after heart surgery to check for damage.
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A troponin test is usually administered in a hospital or emergency room, which means most health insurance companies cover the cost. Without insurance, expect to pay $11 to $100.
You should ask your insurance provider if a troponin test is covered under your policy.
The troponin test is usually performed at a hospital or emergency room. Since it’s used to test for a heart attack, a quick diagnosis is needed to save a person’s life.
You don’t need to do anything to prepare for the test.
To perform the test, a phlebotomist or other trained healthcare professional will draw a blood sample from a vein in your arm.
They will apply a band to the upper arm to increase blood supply to the vein. Next, they will clean the puncture site with an alcohol pad, insert the needle, and begin drawing blood.
You may feel a slight sting or pinch when the needle is inserted or removed. The entire process normally takes less than a few minutes.
After collecting your blood sample, the phlebotomist will apply a bandage to stop the bleeding. You should get your test results within one to two hours.
The test is usually repeated at least twice within 24 hours after the first test. It’s so doctors can keep track of changes in your troponin levels.
When your doctor receives your test results, they'll check to see if your levels are outside the reference range or the range of values normally found in a healthy person.
This range will vary slightly according to the type of test performed and where you receive the test. Men and women may also have slightly different reference ranges.
“Troponin levels are often combined with an electrocardiogram of the heart to rule out a heart attack,” says Dr. Mira.
If your troponin levels are normal within 12 hours after showing symptoms, it’s very unlikely that you had a heart attack. High levels during this time may mean you suffered a heart attack.2
The higher your troponin levels, the more likely you will suffer a heart attack. Troponin levels can remain elevated for up to two weeks after a heart attack.1
Other causes of high troponin levels include:3
The troponin test is the gold standard for diagnosing heart attacks and other forms of heart damage.4 However, it can still lead to false negatives and false positives.1
A false negative occurs when troponin levels do not increase following a heart attack, even though they’re high. False negatives results may appear if:5
If the doctor suspects you’ve had a heart attack, they will recheck your troponin levels over 24 hours. This is to see how your levels change over time.
Your doctor may also order more tests to confirm a diagnosis, such as:
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