Testing for the diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction and other diseases included in the spectrum of the “acute coronary syndrome” is rapidly changing from the traditional enzymatic assays to mass measurement of more specific and sensitive markers (cardiac troponins, CK-MB and myoglobin). Several questions have arisen since the introduction of these new markers into the clinical setting: the choice of strategies for optimizing the utilization of biochemical assays combining different (early and specific) markers, a rationale for sampling specimens and the identification of clinically useful turnaround times. In particular, for achieving the last goal, attention has been directed toward near-patient testing for cardiac markers in addition to, or as a replacement for, traditional diagnostic methodologies. While qualitative methods for measuring cardiac markers at the bedside have some limitations which compromise their clinical usefulness, new quantitative devices offer a real alternative to decentralized testing. Regulatory and quality management issues related to near-patient testing, as well as the performance of recently introduced devices for a decentralized measurement of cardiac markers are reviewed.
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