Hormone can predict future congestive heart failure

February 01, 2002

A new study reveals high levels of a particular hormone excreted by the heart's ventricles--found in patients seeking emergency care for dyspnea (shortness of breath)--is a strong indicator of whether a patient will experience congestive heart failure in the proceeding six months. (B-Type Natriuretic Peptide Predicts Future Cardiac Events in Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department with Dyspnea)

In 325 patients who sought emergency care for dyspnea, researchers tested their level of B-Type Natriuretic Peptide (BNP)--a neurohormone secreted by the heart's ventricles when they expand from increased volume and are overloaded with pressure. In this study, patients with BNP levels that were four times the normal value had a 51 percent chance in the six months following their emergency department visit of either being admitted to the hospital with congestive heart failure or dying.

"The signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure are not easily discernible, which makes the diagnosis difficult," said Alan Maisel, MD, of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Diego, Calif. "This study supports emergency physicians' use of BNP testing as another tool in their arsenal for diagnosing patients at risk of this disease."

About 4.7 million people in the United States have congestive heart failure, and 550,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Congestive heart failure is the most frequent cause of hospitalization in the elderly, with 900,000 hospitalizations and 250,000 deaths each year.

American College of Emergency Physicians

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