04 July 2000
Each year, at least 5 million patients in the United States present to hospital emergency departments with the complaint of chest pain, and more than 10% of them will be diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction. One of the foremost tasks of the emergency department physician is to avoid unnecessary admissions and concomitantly to minimize the number of patients discharged home inappropriately. Currently available diagnostic tools, including the electrocardiogram and myocardial markers, have several shortcomings, including low specificity, and delayed sensitivity for the timely detection of myocardial necrosis. Therefore, the search for better methods of rapidly identifying patients with unstable coronary syndromes is one of the utmost priorities of modern emergency medicine. Available biochemical diagnostic tools are discussed in this review, focusing on the potential benefits of combining myocardial necrosis markers with indicators of platelet activation. It is hypothesized that such a combined approach may be more powerful in myocardial infarction risk stratification than separate marker determination.