Learn Why Doctors Test Creatinine Levels After Heart Attack

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Creatinine is a waste product that forms during the metabolism of protein. The kidneys remove this substance from the body by filtering it from the blood and excreting it in the urine. Normal creatinine levels range from 0.8 to 1.4 mg/dL, according to the National Institutes of Health. When kidney function decreases, creatinine levels increase. This causes symptoms such as itchy skin, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

Heart Attack & Creatinine

The European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association (ERA-EDTA) reports that creatinine levels will eventually become just as important as cholesterol levels in determining the risk for cardiovascular disease and its associated complications. Increased creatinine levels indicate reduced kidney function, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Because high creatinine levels may cause no symptoms, detecting them early is important for determining someone’s risk of stroke and heart attack due to atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis.

It’s also possible for you to have increased creatinine levels after heart attack. In addition to increased creatinine levels, your cardiac enzyme levels will increase as damage to the heart muscle occurs. If you’ve had a heart attack, your doctor will order regular laboratory tests to monitor your condition and reduce the risk of serious complications.

Causes of Elevated Creatinine

While creatinine levels after heart attack may increase, it’s possible for other medical conditions to cause elevated creatinine. These conditions include the following:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Acute renal failure
  • Dehydration
  • Shock
  • Trauma to the kidneys
  • Kidney infection
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Urinary tract obstruction
  • Diabetes complications

Treating Elevated Creatinine

Reducing creatinine levels in the blood involves treating the underlying medical condition. Medications and surgery resolve several medical conditions that cause high creatinine. Better management of diabetes and kidney disease can preserve kidney function and reduce blood creatinine levels. If a patient enters end-stage renal disease (known as kidney failure), doctors use hemodialysis to artificially filter the blood and reduce the workload of the kidneys.

Complementary Testing

Doctors use several blood tests to determine creatinine levels and the amounts of electrolytes and minerals in the blood. The basic metabolic panel checks the levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, potassium, sodium, calcium, glucose, carbon dioxide, and chloride in the blood. If creatinine levels are increased, the amounts of these substances in the blood may also be abnormal.

For patients who present to the emergency room with heart attack symptoms, doctors also test the levels of cardiac enzymes in the blood. Studies of cardiac enzymes measure the amounts of troponin and creatine phosphokinase in the blood. When a heart attack damages the heart muscle, these substances leak into the bloodstream.


The author used the following references in the preparation of this article:

Medical News Today: Creatinine is the ‘New Cholesterol’ for Detecting Vascular Risks of Kidney Disease

American Association for Clinical Chemistry: Creatinine

American Heart Association: An Overview of the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)