How is myoglobin used as a cardiac marker?

Updated: Jul 30, 2021
  • Author: Kamal (Komo) Gursahani, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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Myoglobin is a heme protein found in skeletal and cardiac muscle that has attracted considerable interest as an early marker of MI. Its low molecular weight accounts for its early release profile: Myoglobin typically rises 2-4 hours after onset of infarction, peaks at 6-12 hours, and returns to normal within 24-36 hours.

Rapid myoglobin assays are available, but overall, they have a lack of cardiospecificity. Serial sampling every 1-2 hours can increase the sensitivity and specificity; a rise of 25-40% over 1-2 hours is strongly suggestive of acute MI. However, in most studies, myoglobin only achieved 90% sensitivity for acute MI, so the negative predictive value of myoglobin is not high enough to exclude the diagnosis of acute MI.

The original studies that evaluated myoglobin used the WHO definition of acute MI that was based on a CK-MB standard. With the adoption of a troponin standard for acute MI in the ACC/ESC definition, the sensitivity of myoglobin for acute MI is substantially reduced. This significantly diminishes its utility, and a number of studies have indicated that contemporary cardiac troponin assays render the use of myoglobin measurements unnecessary. [10, 12]

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