Ischemia leads to impaired ATP metabolism, with increased production of purine degradation prod products, such as hypoxanthine and xanthine, which are useful markers of tissue hypoxia. These extracellular markers of ischemia have been studied extensively in many clinical conditions of oxidative stress, including perinatal asphyxia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, cerebral ischemia, and preeclampsia. The aim of this study was to explore the usefulness of urinary hypoxanthine and xanthine as ischemia markers in acute coronary syndromes. Urinary excretion of hypoxanthine and xanthine was assessed by high-performance liquid chromatography in 30 patients with acute coronary syndromes and in 30 age- and sex-matched controls. Serum and urine uric acid, creatinine, and urea concentrations were also determined. Hypoxanthine excretion was significantly elevated in patients compared with healthy controls (84.37 +/- 8.63 and 42.70 +/- 3.97 nmol/mg creatinine, mean +/- SEM, P < 0.0001). Urinary xanthine levels were also increased in patients with acute coronary syndromes (100.13 +/- 12.14 and 34.74 +/- 4.07 nmol/mg creatinine patients and controls, respectively; P < 0.0001). Hypoxanthine and xanthine excretion showed a strong positive correlation in both groups. Significant negative correlations between urinary hypoxanthine and uric acid and xanthine and uric acid were observed in the patients, but not in controls. In conclusion, increased levels of ATP degradation products hypoxanthine and xanthine are observed in various hypoxic clinical conditions. This study suggests that these parameters may be useful markers of ischemia in patients with acute coronary syndromes.