Earlier diagnosis and treatment of acute myocardial infarction necessitates the need for a 'new diagnostic mind-set'
Triaging patients suspected of myocardial infarction is performed primarily in the coronary care unit, with infarction determined within 12 to 24 hours, and only about 20% are subsequently shown to have myocardial infarction. Plasma MB CK is not elevated until 8 to 10 hours after onset, and the ECG is unreliable; thus, the need has arisen for a new "diagnostic mind-set." The need is threefold: (1) more effective triaging in the emergency room to prevent unnecessary use of hospital beds, particularly those in the intensive care units, (2) to administer thrombolytic therapy in the early hours, and (3) earlier detection of coronary reocclusion and reinfarction. Diagnostic imaging techniques such as pyrophosphate, thallium-201 technetium sestamibi, or positron emitting agents lack the necessary early diagnostic specificity, but echocardiography has potential although its specificity is limited. Plasma CK isoforms provide diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of 96% and 94%, respectively, within the initial 4 to 6 hours of onset and can be assayed within minutes. In a prospective study of 1100 patients suspected of infarction, with conventional MB CK, 22% of the patients admitted to the coronary care unit would have had infarction, whereas using the CK isoforms, 75% had infarction and about 50% were discharged home. A scenario for the future might be to initiate thrombolytic therapy outside the hospital (eg, recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator [r-TPA] 20 mg bolus) and upon arrival, confirm or exclude infarction by the MB CK isoform which can be performed in the emergency room in 20 minutes to determine whether thrombolytic therapy and heparin should be continued.