BACKGROUND: Heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) is considered a marker of myocardial necrosis but whether or not it is modified by myocardial ischemia is not clear. We sought to investigate if H-FABP serum levels increase following non-urgent coronary angioplasty. METHODS: We studied 31 patients undergoing coronary angioplasty. Peripheral venous samples were drawn immediately before angioplasty, 1 h after the first balloon inflation and 24 h after the procedure and assayed for H-FABP. RESULTS: Serum levels of H-FABP increased significantly at 1 h vs baseline from 2554 +/- 1268 to 3322 +/- 245 pg ml(-1) (p = 0.024). However, no differences were observed between 1 h and 24 h after angioplasty (3268 +/- 1861 vs 3322 +/- 2459 pg ml(-1), p = 0.87). Moreover, no significant difference was observed when we compared 24 h after angioplasty with the baseline (3268 +/- 1861 vs 2554 +/- 1268 pg ml(-1), p = 0.112). CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that H-FABP significantly increases after elective coronary angioplasty at 1 h compared with baseline values; whether or not this has any prognostic significance for future events, as it occurs with troponins, needs to be studied further.