AIMS: To determine if cardiac enzymes measured at necropsy could be used to predict early myocardial infarction. METHODS: Cardiac enzyme activities were measured in body fluids at necropsy. Coroners' necropsies were grouped by gross and microscopic findings into cases of definite myocardial infarction, cases with occlusive coronary artery atheroma but no identifiable myocardial infarction, and non-cardiac cases. Pericardial fluid, peripheral venous blood, and blood from the right atrium were collected. Total creatine phosphokinase, creatine phosphokinase isoenzymes, aspartate aminotransferase and hydroxybutarate dehydrogenase activities were measured and the results analysed by logistic regression. RESULTS: The values of creatine phosphokinase and its isoenzymes were raised in those who had died of cardiac disease and were most discriminatory. Cases of early myocardial infarction without evidence of infarction on routine histological examination could be identified from enzyme activities. CONCLUSIONS: Measurement of cardiac enzymes in blood and pericardial fluid at necropsy can provide valuable additional information in cases of sudden death as a result of myocardial ischaemia which have occurred before macroscopic or microscopic evidence of myocardial infarction.
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