Cardiac troponin testing in idiopathic inflammatory myopathies and systemic sclerosis-spectrum disorders: biomarkers to distinguish between primary cardiac involvement and low-grade skeletal muscle disease activity

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Abstract

Primary cardiac involvement, an under-recognised manifestation of the idiopathic inflammatory myopathies (IIM) and systemic sclerosis (SSc)-spectrum disorders, is associated with significant mortality. Within these two conditions, traditional skeletal muscle enzyme testing may not effectively distinguish between skeletal and cardiac muscle involvement, especially in patients with subclinical cardiac disease. Accurate biomarkers are thus required to screen for cardiac disease, to better inform both therapeutic decision-making and treatment response. The widespread uptake of cardiac troponin testing has revolutionised the management of acute coronary syndromes. While cardiac troponin I (cTnI) appears specific to the myocardium, cardiac troponin T (cTnT) is also expressed by skeletal muscle, including regenerating skeletal muscle tissue. There is increasing interest about the role of cardiac troponins as a putative biomarker of primary cardiac involvement in IIM and SSc-spectrum disorders. Herewith we discuss subclinical cardiac disease in IIM and SSc-spectrum disorders, the respective roles of cTnI and cTnT testing, and the re-expression of cTnT within regenerating skeletal muscle tissue. There remains wide variation in access to cardiac troponin testing nationally and internationally. We propose two pragmatic clinical pathways using cardiac troponins, preferably measuring concomitant cTnT followed by confirmatory (cardiac) cTnI to screen patients for subclinical cardiac disease and/or low-grade skeletal muscle disease activity, and also an agenda for future research.

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