Although rare instances of cardiac injury or arrhythmias have been reported in acute liver failure (ALF), overall, the heart is considered to be spared in this condition. Troponin I, a sensitive and specific marker of myocardial injury, may be elevated in patients with sepsis and acute stroke without underlying acute coronary syndrome, indicating unrecognized cardiac injury in these settings. We sought to determine whether subclinical cardiac injury might also occur in acute liver failure. Serum troponin I levels were measured in 187 patients enrolled in the US Acute Liver Failure Study Group registry, and correlated with clinical variables and outcomes. Diagnoses were representative of the larger group of > 1000 patients thus far enrolled and included 80 with acetaminophen-related injury, 26 with viral hepatitis, 19 with ischemic injury, and 62 others. Overall, 74% of patients had elevated troponin I levels (>0.1 ng/ml). Patients with elevated troponin I levels were more likely to have advanced hepatic coma (grades III or IV) or to die (for troponin I levels >0.1 ng/ml, odds ratio 3.88 and 4.69 for advanced coma or death, respectively). Conclusion: In acute liver failure, subclinical myocardial injury appears to occur more commonly than has been recognized, and its pathogenesis in the context of acute liver failure is unclear. Elevated troponin levels are associated with a significant increase in morbidity and mortality. Measurement of troponin I levels may be helpful in patients with acute liver failure, to detect unrecognized myocardial damage and as a marker of unfavorable outcome.
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