To study the cause of myocardial injury after elective transvenous insertion of a cardioverter/defibrillator, we measured troponin T (TnT) release in 27 patients. Five patients needing only replacement of the generator with threshold testing served as controls. Compared to the control group, a significant increase in TnT occurred in the patients undergoing insertion, which was greatest in the group receiving screw-in electrodes. There was no correlation between TnT and the number and energy of the shocks and the time in fibrillation. Duration of surgery and TnT release were positively associated. Cardiac injury therefore mainly results from mechanical trauma during insertion of the electrodes and only to a lesser degree from electrical and ischemic lesions.