Blood Test : Cardiac Enzymes

Certain enzymes (CPK, LDH, SGOT) are released from the heart muscle cells when it is injured ("heart attack"). These enzymes are normally found in the blood at low levels. The abnormal elevation of these enzymes in the blood stream can occasionally be the only indicator that a heart attack (myocardial infarction) has occurred.

The physician will test the cardiac enzymes in situations where a myocardial infarction is suspected (patient with chest pain). Patients known to have had a heart attack may have cardiac enzymes monitored over several days to document improvement. Often the cardiac enzymes will not be abnormally elevated until 24 hours after the onset of the chest pain. A venipuncture specimen is needed to perform this special test.

Testing cardiac enzyme levels are also useful in the patient with a suspect myocardial contusion from a chest injury, or in the victim of an electrical injury (electric shock). One of the most reliable and commonly tested cardiac enzyme is creatinine phosphokinase (CPK). CPK is present in all muscle tissue (skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle), but the CPK-MB fraction is released specifically from injured heart muscle.


An abnormal elevation in the TOTAL CPK and the CPK-MB is diagnostic for a heart attack, even in cases where the EKG may be normal. Increased diagnostic accuracy is found when this blood test is performed serially (over 24 hours) with the EKG. The CPK-MB enzyme is not expected to rise until 12-24 hours after a heart attack has occurred. This fact makes the immediate diagnosis (or exclusion) of myocardial infarction impossible in cases where the EKG is normal.


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