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Is there value in testing troponin levels after ICD discharge?

Three Part Question

In [an adult patient whose ICD has discharged] is [a rise in troponin] suggestive of [an ischaemic cardiac event precipitating ICD discharge or defibrillation induced myocyte damage]?

Clinical Scenario

A 50-year-old man presents to the emergency department having been woken from sleep by his implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) firing; it has fired twice more since that time. He is in sinus rhythm and has no acute signs or symptoms. A recent angiogram showed no significant coronary artery disease (CAD). You speak to the Cardiology Registrar who advises that troponin levels should be checked. You wonder if there is any evidence for this and, further, how you might interpret the result.

Search Strategy

Ovid MEDLINE(R) 1946 to November Week 3 2013: (( AND OR exp Defibrillators, Implantable/ OR implantable defibrillator$.af.) AND OR exp Troponin/ Results limited to English language and studies in humans.

The Cochrane Library Issue 12 of 12 December 2013: MeSH descriptor: [Troponin] explode all trees AND ICD:ti,ab,kw (Word variations have been searched) OR MeSH descriptor: [Pacemaker, Artificial] explode all trees

Google Scholar December 2013: >8000 search results.

Search Outcome

Ovid search retrieved 38 papers of which 11 were relevant. PubMed clinical queries: No additional papers identified. Cochrane search retrieved three papers, none of which were relevant. Two additional papers of note identified from first 100 best matches in Google Scholar. No paper directly answered the question posed. The relevant papers are summarised in the following table

Relevant Paper(s)

Author, date and country Patient group Study type (level of evidence) Outcomes Key results Study Weaknesses
Davoodi et al.
133 patients undergoing ICD insertion and 130 patients undergoing PPM insertionProspective cohort study (2b)Cardiac biomarkersTroponin rise from myocardial injury is likely due to DFT rather than device insertionInconsistencies between cohorts
Toh et al.
50 patients undergoing elective ICD insertion and DFT (half LVEF >45%, half LVEF < 45%)Prospective study (2b)Cardiac biomarkersNo troponin rise above upper limit of normal in either LVEF < 45% or LVEF > 45% group up to 4 hours1) Small study 2) Short period of follow up (only 4 hours)
Francis et al.
31 patients undergoing first time elective ICD insertion and DFTProspective study (2b)Cardiac biomarkersRelationship between Troponin I & BNP rise post ICD DFT therefore discharge causes subtle injury and left ventricular dysfunction (p<0.0001)1) No control group 2) Only followed for maximum of 12 hours 3) No allied assessment of ventricular function i.e. echocardiography 4) Presumably low sensitivity Troponin I assay (1.5ng/ml upper limit normal)? 5) Small study
Cardiac biomarkersOne patient had Troponin rise above the study’s upper limit of normal
Bhavnani et al.
1372 patients undergoing ICD implantation and DFT with or without subsequent shocksRetrospective Study (2b) Hospitalisation for ADHFAppropriate shock causes increased risk of admission for ADHF (LVEF <35% - AHR 1.66 p<0.002, LVEF > 35% - AHR 4.11 p=0.002).Only first shock included in study – no note if patient had additional shocks
DeathAppropriate shock causes increased risk of death (AHR 2.09, P<0.001)
Death and hospitalisation for ADHFInappropriate shocks did not increase risk of death or hospitalisation from ADHF
Blendea et al.
174 patients who received either spontaneous (66) or induced ICD discharges (108)Prospective study (2b)DeathTroponin T rise after ICD discharge is an independent risk factor for mortality (p<0.001)1) Study uses Troponin T not I 2) Single late Troponin level (12-24 hours post discharge)
Alaiti et al.
Review including 34 studies and 1608 patientsReviewVarious1) 2.9% of patients had Troponin I levels above the normal limit post internal cardioversion 2) 32% of patients had Troponin I levels above the normal limit post DFTInter-study inconsistencies
Daubert et al.
719 patients who had ICD implantedProspective study (2b)DeathInappropriate and appropriate shock causes increased risk of death (AHR 4.08, P<0.01)Number of shocks not recorded
DeathInappropriate shock alone causes increased risk of death (AHR 2.29, P=0.02)
DeathAppropriate shock only causes increased risk of death (AHR 3.36, P<0.01)
Hasdemir et al.
35 patients admitted post spontaneous ICD dischargeRetrospective Study (2b) Cardiac biomarkersTroponin rise in 43% of patients without ACS1) Small study 2) No mention if all patients were admitted 3) Possibly late sampling missing some Troponin rises
Cardiac biomarkers22% of Patients with known CAD had proven ACS
Cardiac biomarkersAcute ECG changes present in 25% of patients with clinically interpretable ECGs
Cardiac biomarkers14% of all patients had ACS
Cardiac biomarkersTroponin rise related to number of shocks and delivered energy (p<0.05)
Poole et al.
128 patients with heart failure receiving spontaneous ICD discharges RCT (1b)DeathIncreased risk of death if had discharge of any cause (appropriate/inappropriate) (p=≤0.002)Minor device related data loss
Schlüter et al.
14 patients undergoing elective ICD insertion and DFTProspective study (2b)Cardiac biomarkersMajority Troponin I peaks at 4 hoursVery small study
Cardiac biomarkers21% of patients had Troponin I rise above clinical cut off level with ≥ 2 shocks
Rao et al.
6 patients undergoing ICD insertion and DFTProspective study (2b)Cardiac biomarkersNo Troponin I rise Very small study
Hurst et al.
49 patients undergoing elective ICD insertion and DFTProspective study (2b)Cardiac biomarkers14% of patients had Troponin I levels above clinical cut off levelSmall study
Cardiac biomarkersTroponin I rise related to number of shocks (p=0.04)
Joglar et al.
12 patients undergoing elective ICD insertion and DFTProspective cohort study (2b)Cardiac biomarkers50% of patients had Troponin I levels above clinical cut off level and all peaked within 12 hoursVery small study


The majority of papers deal with defibrillator threshold testing (DFT) rather than spontaneous discharge, and use a variety of troponin assays. From the above research it can be seen that myocyte damage from an ICD discharge alone can raise troponin levels, and the more shocks, the higher the rise. There is no proven difference in level of troponin rise due to whether the discharge was appropriate, inappropriate or from DFT, but a positive troponin level is more common in spontaneous discharges. A small but significant proportion of patients whose ICD discharges on a background of CAD will have acute coronary syndrome (ACS). There is limited data in these studies to suggest that likely non-ACS related rises tend to peak earlier than those from ACS which confirms expert clinical experience that myocardial ischaemia causes a more prolonged troponin release compared to the discrete insult of an ICD discharge for arrhythmia. Interrogation of any recently discharged ICD should be requested on all patients. Whether to employ a troponin level test depends on the patient's history of CAD and the clinical evaluation of ACS. Any patient with a confirmed absence of CAD (all patients with ICD will have had imaging of their coronary arteries) and who presents without symptoms of ACS does not require troponin level evaluation. So in the clinical scenario, the patient could be considered for discharge once ICD interrogation has been arranged. Any patient symptomatic of ACS should be managed as per local ACS protocol with a troponin assay. Any patient with known CAD but without symptoms of ACS should be discussed promptly with an electrophysiologist or, if this is not possible, have a 6–12 h troponin assay (depending on local policy). If the troponin assay is negative, the patient can be considered for discharge once ICD interrogation has been arranged. If the troponin assay is positive, the patient should be managed as per local ACS protocol.

Editor Comment

ACS, acute coronary syndrome; ADHF, acute decompensated heart failure; AHR, adjusted HR; BNP, brain natriuretic peptide; CAD, coronary artery disease; DFT, defibrillator threshold testing; ICD, implanted cardioverter defibrillator; LVEF, left ventricular ejection fraction; RCT, randomised controlled trial.

Clinical Bottom Line

The number of implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) discharges must be taken into account when evaluating any troponin level rise. Overall, a positive troponin assay post-ICD discharge is independently associated with an increased mortality.


  1. Davoodi G, Mohammadi V, Shafiee A et al. Detection of myocardial injury due to defibrillation threshold checking after insertion of implantable cardioverter/defibrillators. Acta Cardiologica 2013;68:167–72.
  2. Toh N, Nishii N, Nakamura K et al. Cardiac dysfunction and prolonged hemodynamic deterioration after implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shock in patients with systolic heart failure. Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol. 2012;5:898–905.
  3. Francis CK, Kuo YH, Azzam I et al. Brain natriuretic peptide and biomarkers of myocardial ischemia increase after defibrillation threshold testing. Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2012;35:314–19.
  4. Bhavnani SP, Kluger J, Coleman CI et al. The prognostic impact of shocks for clinical and induced arrhythmias on morbidity and mortality among patients with implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. Heart Rhythm. 2010;7:755–60.
  5. Blendea D, Blendea M, Banker J et al. Troponin T elevation after implanted defibrillator discharge predicts survival. Heart 2009;95:1153–8.
  6. Alaiti MA, Maroo A, Edel TB Troponin levels after cardiac electrophysiology procedures: review of the literature. Pacing & Clinical Electrophysiology 2009;32:800–10.
  7. Daubert JP, Zareba W, Cannom DS et al. Inappropriate implantable cardioverter-defibrillator shocks in MADIT II: frequency, mechanisms, predictors, and survival impact. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008;51:1357–65.
  8. Hasdemir C, Shah N, Rao AP et al. Analysis of troponin I levels after spontaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator shocks. J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 2002;13:144–50.
  9. Poole JE, Johnson GW, Hellkamp AS et al. Prognostic importance of defibrillator shocks in patients with heart failure. N Engl J Med. 2008;359:1009–17.
  10. Schlüter T, Baum H, Plewan A et al. Effects of implantable cardioverter defibrillator implantation and shock application on biochemical markers of myocardial damage. Clin Chem. 2001;47:459–63.
  11. Rao SP, Miller S, Rosenbaum R et al. Cardiac troponin I and cardiac enzymes after electrophysiologic studies, ablations, and defibrillator implantations. Am J Cardiol. 1999;84:470, A9.
  12. Hurst TM, Hinrichs M, Breidenbach C et al. Detection of myocardial injury during transvenous implantation of automatic cardioverter-defibrillators. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1999;34:402–8.
  13. Joglar JA, Kessler DJ, Welch PJ et al. Effects of repeated electrical defibrillations on cardiac troponin I levels. Am J Cardiol. 1999;83:270–2.