Testing for antimyocardial antibodies is done when evaluating a person for heart damage or heart disease.
Antimyocardial antibodies are autoantibodies. Normal antibodies are special proteins built by the body as a defense against foreign material entering the body. Autoantibodies are also proteins built by the body, but instead of attacking foreign material, they inappropriately attack the body's own cells. Antimyocardial antibodies attack a person's heart muscle, or myocardium.
This test may be done on a person who recently had trauma to the heart, such as heart surgery or a myocardial infarction (heart attack). It also may be done on someone with heart disease, such as cardiomyopathy or rheumatic fever.
Although the presence of antimyocardial antibodies does not diagnose heart damage or disease, there is a connection between the presence of these antibodies and damage to the heart. The amount of damage, however, cannot be predicted by the amount of antibodies.
These antibodies usually appear after heart surgery or the beginning of disease, but they may be present before surgery or the onset of disease. In 30% of people with myocardial infarction and 70% of people having heart surgery, antimyocardial antibodies will appear within two to three weeks and stay for three to eight weeks.
A 5-10 mL sample of venous blood is drawn from the patient's arm in the region of the inner elbow. Antimyocardial antibodies are detected by combining a patient's serum (clear, thin, sticky fluid in blood) with cells from animal heart tissue, usually that of a monkey. Antimyocardial antibodies in the serum bind to the heart tissue cells. Afluorescent dye is then added to the mixture. This dye will attach to any antibodies and heart tissue cells bound together. The final mixture is studied under a microscope that is designed to show fluorescence. If fluorescent cells are seen under the microscope, the test is positive.
When the test is positive, the next step is to find out how much antibody is present. The patient's serum is diluted, or titered, and the test is done again. The serum is then further diluted and the test repeated until the serum is so dilute that fluorescence is no longer seen. The last dilution that showed fluorescence is the titer reported.
No fasting or special prepartion is needed. Before the test is done it should be explained to the patient.
Discomfort or bruising may occur at the puncture site after the blood is drawn or the person may feel dizzy or faint. Pressure to the puncture site until the bleeding stops reduces bruising. Warm packs on the puncture site relieve discomfort.
Antimyocardial antibodies are not normally seen in healthy individuals.
A positive result means that antimyocardial antibodies are present and that heart disease or damage is likely. Further testing may be needed as other autoantibodies could also be present, causing a false abnormal test.