Background: The value of N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) in terms of diagnosis and prognosis in congestive heart failure (CHF) and left ventricular systolic dysfunction (LVSD) has been demonstrated previously in various populations, but data on primary care patients are sparse. The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic and prognostic performance of NT-proBNP in primary care patients with suspected CHF.
Methods and results: Three hundred sixty-seven consecutive patients (mean age, 68.8 years; range, 39.0-84.0 years) who had been referred by their general practitioner for echocardiographic evaluation because of suspected CHF. In all patients, NT-proBNP was measured at baseline and left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) was estimated with echocardiography. LVSD (LVEF < or =0.40) was found in 9% of the patients. NT-proBNP was significantly higher in patients with LVSD (P < .0001). With predefined cut off values for NT-proBNP (125 pg/mL), the sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value for the detection of LVSD were 0.97, 0.46, 0.15 and 0.99, respectively. Area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.87. The application of an age-differentiated cut-off value for NT-proBNP (125 pg/mL for <75 years old and 450 pg/mL for > or =75 years old) did not increase diagnostic performance. Patients were followed for a median of 778 days; 8% of the patients died during the follow-up period. The mortality rate was higher in patients with NT-proBNP of >125 pg/mL than in patients with normal values (P < .002, log rank), and the difference persisted after controlling for age, gender, and LVEF (hazard ratio per unit increase in log NT-proBNP, 2.2; range, 1.2-4.1; P = .015).
Conclusion: In primary care patients who were referred for echocardiography because of suspected CHF, NT-proBNP values <125 pg/mL effectively rule out LVSD. Furthermore low NT-proBNP values are associated with a lower risk of death, independently of age, gender, and LVEF.