Background: B-type natriuretic peptide levels are higher in patients with congestive heart failure than in patients with dyspnea from other causes.
Methods: We conducted a prospective, randomized, controlled study of 452 patients who presented to the emergency department with acute dyspnea: 225 patients were randomly assigned to a diagnostic strategy involving the measurement of B-type natriuretic peptide levels with the use of a rapid bedside assay, and 227 were assessed in a standard manner. The time to discharge and the total cost of treatment were the primary end points.
Results: Base-line demographic and clinical characteristics were well matched between the two groups. The use of B-type natriuretic peptide levels reduced the need for hospitalization and intensive care; 75 percent of patients in the B-type natriuretic peptide group were hospitalized, as compared with 85 percent of patients in the control group (P=0.008), and 15 percent of those in the B-type natriuretic peptide group required intensive care, as compared with 24 percent of those in the control group (P=0.01). The median time to discharge was 8.0 days in the B-type natriuretic peptide group and 11.0 days in the control group (P=0.001). The mean total cost of treatment was 5,410 dollars (95 percent confidence interval, 4,516 dollars to 6,304 dollars) in the B-type natriuretic peptide group, as compared with 7,264 dollars (95 percent confidence interval, 6,301 dollars to 8,227 dollars) in the control group (P=0.006). The respective 30-day mortality rates were 10 percent and 12 percent (P=0.45).
Conclusions: Used in conjunction with other clinical information, rapid measurement of B-type natriuretic peptide in the emergency department improved the evaluation and treatment of patients with acute dyspnea and thereby reduced the time to discharge and the total cost of treatment.
Copyright 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society