High-sensitivity troponin assays for early rule-out of acute myocardial infarction in people with acute chest pain: a systematic review and economic evaluation

Marie Westwood*, Bram Ramaekers, Sabine Grimm, Gill Worthy, Debra Fayter, Nigel Armstrong, Titas Buksnys, Janine Ross, Manuela Joore, Jos Kleijnen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


BACKGROUND: Early diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction is important, but only 20% of emergency admissions for chest pain will actually have an acute myocardial infarction. High-sensitivity cardiac troponin assays may allow rapid rule out of myocardial infarction and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of high-sensitivity cardiac troponin assays for the management of adults presenting with acute chest pain, in particular for the early rule-out of acute myocardial infarction.

METHODS: Sixteen databases were searched up to September 2019. Review methods followed published guidelines. Studies were assessed for quality using appropriate risk-of-bias tools. The bivariate model was used to estimate summary sensitivity and specificity for meta-analyses involving four or more studies; otherwise, random-effects logistic regression was used. The health economic analysis considered the long-term costs and quality-adjusted life-years associated with different troponin testing methods. The de novo model consisted of a decision tree and a state-transition cohort model. A lifetime time horizon (of 60 years) was used.

RESULTS: Thirty-seven studies (123 publications) were included in the review. The high-sensitivity cardiac troponin test strategies evaluated are defined by the combination of four factors (i.e. assay, number and timing of tests, and threshold concentration), resulting in a large number of possible combinations. Clinical opinion indicated a minimum clinically acceptable sensitivity of 97%. When considering single test strategies, only those using a threshold at or near to the limit of detection for the assay, in a sample taken at presentation, met the minimum clinically acceptable sensitivity criterion. The majority of the multiple test strategies that met this criterion comprised an initial rule-out step, based on high-sensitivity cardiac troponin levels in a sample taken on presentation and a minimum symptom duration, and a second stage for patients not meeting the initial rule-out criteria, based on presentation levels of high-sensitivity cardiac troponin and absolute change after 1, 2 or 3 hours. Two large cluster randomised controlled trials found that implementation of an early rule-out pathway for myocardial infarction reduced length of stay and rate of hospital admission without increasing cardiac events. In the base-case analysis, standard troponin testing was both the most effective and the most costly. Other testing strategies with a sensitivity of 100% (subject to uncertainty) were almost equally effective, resulting in the same life-year and quality-adjusted life-year gain at up to four decimal places. Comparisons based on the next best alternative showed that for willingness-to-pay values below £8455 per quality-adjusted life-year, the Access High Sensitivity Troponin I (Beckman Coulter, Brea, CA, USA) [(symptoms > 3 hours AND < 4 ng/l at 0 hours) OR (< 5 ng/l AND Δ < 5 ng/l at 0 to 2 hours)] would be cost-effective. For thresholds between £8455 and £20,190 per quality-adjusted life-year, the Elecsys® Troponin-T high sensitive (Roche, Basel, Switzerland) (< 12 ng/l at 0 hours AND Δ < 3 ng/l at 0 to 1 hours) would be cost-effective. For a threshold > £20,190 per quality-adjusted life-year, the Dimension Vista® High-Sensitivity Troponin I (Siemens Healthcare, Erlangen, Germany) (< 5 ng/l at 0 hours AND Δ < 2 ng/l at 0 to 1 hours) would be cost-effective.

CONCLUSIONS: High-sensitivity cardiac troponin testing may be cost-effective compared with standard troponin testing.

STUDY REGISTRATION: This study is registered as PROSPERO CRD42019154716.

FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Evidence Synthesis programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 25, No. 33. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-276
Number of pages277
JournalHealth Technology Assessment
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - May 2021



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