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To study the value of assaying cardiac troponin I (cTnI) for the early diagnosis of perioperative myocardial infarction (PMI) and various complications of cardiac surgery.A prospective observational clinical study.Biochemical laboratory, anesthesia, and cardiac surgery department of Hôpital Broussais.Two hundred and sixty consecutive patients undergoing cardiac surgery.All patients underwent coronary artery bypass grafting and/or valvular surgery under extracorporeal circulation. Per-operative and postoperative follow-up consisted of electrocardiogram, echocardiography (mainly by the transesophageal approach), and serial determinations of biochemical markers such as creatinine kinase-MB isoenzyme (CK-MB) and cTnI. PMI, new ST segment changes, and ventricular arrhythmias were considered postoperative adverse cardiac outcome.CTnI was measured before cardiopulmonary bypass (T0) and 12 and 24 hrs after (T12, T24). CK-MB was measured on arrival in the intensive care unit and on the first postoperative day (D1). Patients were divided into three groups according to the type of surgery: coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), valvular surgery (VS), or both procedures. The plasma CK-MB and cTnI concentrations were high in all patients after extracorporeal circulation because of aortic clamping or cardioplegia. The CK-MB and cTnI values were higher in the VS group than in the CABG group. Values peaked at T12 and fell by T24, except when PMI occurred. Eight patients developed a PMI. Patients with PMI had significantly higher cTnI levels at T12 and T24, and higher CK-MB values at D1 than patients without PMI. Cutoff values of cTnI for diagnosing PMI were >19 μg/L at T12 with 100% sensitivity and 73% specificity, and >36 μg/L at T24, with 100% sensitivity and 93% specificity. Lower cTnI values were highly suggestive of the absence of PMI after CABG and/or VS. Other complications such as ST segment changes, ventricular arrhythmias and cardiac failure were indicated by high cTnI levels at T12 and T24. Myocardial protective measures were associated with a nonsignificant increase in cTnI values.CTnI is more sensitive and specific than CK-MB for diagnosing PMI and other forms of heart failure after cardiac surgery.