Background: We sought to determine the degree to which B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) adds to clinical judgment in the diagnosis of congestive heart failure (CHF).
Methods and results: The Breathing Not Properly Multinational Study was a prospective diagnostic test evaluation study conducted in 7 centers. Of 1586 participants who presented with acute dyspnea, 1538 (97%) had clinical certainty of CHF determined by the attending physician in the emergency department. Participants underwent routine care and had BNP measured in a blinded fashion. The reference standard for CHF was adjudicated by 2 independent cardiologists, also blinded to BNP results. The final diagnosis was CHF in 722 (47%) participants. At an 80% cutoff level of certainty of CHF, clinical judgment had a sensitivity of 49% and specificity of 96%. At 100 pg/mL, BNP had a sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 73%. In determining the correct diagnosis (CHF versus no CHF), adding BNP to clinical judgment would have enhanced diagnostic accuracy from 74% to 81%. In those participants with an intermediate (21% to 79%) probability of CHF, BNP at a cutoff of 100 pg/mL correctly classified 74% of the cases. The areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve were 0.86 (95% CI 0.84 to 0.88), 0.90 (95% CI 0.88 to 0.91), and 0.93 (95% CI 0.92 to 0.94) for clinical judgment, for BNP at a cutoff of 100 pg/mL, and for the 2 in combination, respectively (P<0.0001 for all pairwise comparisons).
Conclusions: The evaluation of acute dyspnea would be improved with the addition of BNP testing to clinical judgment in the emergency department.