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Recent studies have suggested that positive troponin I tests are associated with an increased risk of cardiac death during short-term follow-up. However, it is unknown if troponin I tests alone or in addition to CK-MB measurements are superior to predict unfavorable outcome during long-term follow-up.In a prospective, double-blind study we assessed the prevalence and prognostic value of combined troponin I and CK-MB tests in an unselected cohort of patients (n = 292) admitted to the emergency department for acute chest discomfort. Patients were grouped according to the diagnosis on discharge in those with acute myocardial infarction (1), unstable angina (2), and noncardiac chest pain (3). Six months after enrollment, death rates were obtained and follow-up interviews were performed with respect to survival, recurrence of chest pain, and myocardial infarction.In patients with evidence of coronary heart disease, the mortality rate for abnormal troponin I and normal CK-MB levels was 5.0%. Baseline troponin I and elevated CK-MB levels were associated with a mortality rate of 4.0%. However, the mortality rate was significantly higher (11.1%) in patients presenting with elevated troponin I and CK-MB values. In patients without myocardial infarction on admission, 10.5% with positive troponin I tests died compared to 1.6% with negative tests. The mortality rate in patients without myocardial infarction was 2.7% for patients with elevated CK-MB but normal troponin I values. In patients with both markers elevated a significantly higher mortality rate (16.7%) was found, representing a 6-fold increase in the death event rate. With the additional knowledge of troponin I values, it could be demonstrated that certain cases were misclassified as having noncardiac chest pain. At least some of the latter patients with above-normal values of troponin I were retrospectively to be reclassified as unstable angina. Acute non-Q-wave myocardial infarctions were occasionally misdiagnosed as either angina pectoris or nonischemic chest pain.Our data suggest the superiority of combined CK-MB and troponin I measurements in clinical practice for the early risk stratification of patients presenting with acute chest pain. In nonmyocardial infarctions, both CK-MB and troponin I convey independent prognostic information with regard to fatal outcome. Troponin I tests in addition to CK-MB measurements contribute to a lower rate of misdiagnoses.